I was going to have this thoughtful send off post before I take a break while we usher in 2009, but then I didn’t. I spent too much time trying to figure out how to add some features to my blog (anyone find a good ‘comment via email’ plugin for wordpress let me know). One of my goals for next year is to be more engaged in the dialog that happens in the comments on my posts, but I need an easier way to do that, which is what I’m working on now.
That’s all. Happy Holidays (It’s the fourth night of Hanukkah tonight) and Happy New Year! See you in 2009.
I’ve been using WordPress to host my blog since 2005. Without a doubt I am a huge fan of WordPress and the open source community of developers that make it as versatile as it is. One such site has been WPDesigner.com previously run by Small Potato. The site changed owners earlier this year and is now owned by a guy named Pawel Ciszewski. Apparently, since purchasing the site in March and posting an introductory post there has not been much activity at WPdesigner. The site was one of the most popular wordpress related sites out there and still has some great free themes that Small Potato created before leaving. The real potential of the site was in the WordPress Theme club, the idea being a subscription based club which gave you access to hundreds of high quality wordpress themes. It would have been an inticing purchase had it gotten off the ground. From the looks of the site there is some revamping going on, so you’ll have to check it out in the next month or so to see what changes are made. The site is advertising both WordPress themes and web hosting now so it might be worth a peek if your looking for a new web host.
Here’s a brief Christmas/Hanukkah wish of mine: I’m interested in who reads my blog. So, this will be a very brief post, but my wish is this, stop by and leave a comment on this post and tell me who you are and where you are from. There are quite a few that comment only occasionally and some who have probably been hiding out and never said a word. But even for those who’ve commented many a times, I’d love it if you’d just stop by and get the list going. For an extra bonus point, let me know how you came across my blog.
Thanks! Your the best!
(So, Comment Below: Who Are You and Where Are You From?)
I picked up the large print edition of Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell (A trick for getting new releases from the library quickly, get the large print edition). Like all of Gladwell’s books, it was a thoroughly interesting read.
The basic premise is that we don’t become who we are simply by our own hardwork. It’s a case against our imaginary tale of the American Dream, where anyone with a work ethic can make it. Gladwell doesn’t say hardwork is bad or that those who are truly successful haven’t worked hard, but rather he points out the benefits and opportunities we’ve each had along the way. It’s a great collection of research and stories to make a case, in the end, for providing everyone with the types of opportunities that have brought about the success of so many in our country (hope that line made sense).
Anyways, this review is late in coming so I’ll conclude here and throw you some quotes and thoughts from the book.
Gladwell points out the effect of birth months as it relates to sports (taken from an extract in the Guardian):
Take ice hockey in Canada: look at any team and you will find that a disproportionate number of players will have been born in the first three months of the year. This, it turns out, is because the cut-off date for children eligible for the nine-year-old, 10-year-old, 11-year-old league and so on is January 1. Boys who are oldest and biggest at the beginning of the hockey season are inevitably the best. And so they get the most coaching and practice, and they get chosen for the all-star team, and so their advantage increases – on into the professional game.
A profound thought is that this same effect impacts schools and students performance. In turn we could respond appropriately. “Elementary and middle schools could put the January through April-born students in one class, the May through August in another class, and those born in September through December in the thrid class. They could let students learn with and compete against other students of the same maturity level.”
Another section talks about “Power Distance Index” (PDI) and attitudes toward hierarchy.
This statement is actually a quote from another person, Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede, who wrote in his classic text Culture’s Consequences,
“I actually saw the Dutch prime minister, Joop den Uyl, on vacation with his motor home at a camping site in Portugal.”
“The world could be so much richer than the world we have settled for.”
So, I’m excited to have another published piece in Geez Magazine. Here’s the article (you’ll have to get your own copy if you want to see it in print)…
On Raising Activist Children
I want to raise my children valuing the importance of relationship and community.
I want them to see giving as far more enjoyable and valuable then receiving (yes, even at Christmas time).
I want my children to know, and lend me insight, into the paradoxes of Jesus’ teachings: Love your enemies, deny yourself, seek first the kingdom, faith like a child in a kingdom like a mustard seed.
I want my kids to know that there are better uses of your time then comatose entertainment and that more toys won’t make you more happy.
I want them to know that following Jesus is much more about hanging out in the park with the homeless and having banquets for the needy, than it is about going to a building to sing songs and eating out on Sunday with people that all look and act the same.
I want my kids to know that worship includes planting gardens and giving food, clothes and shelter to others.
I want them to know that we bike because it’s fun, and it’s taking good care of this lovely planet God gave us.
I want my kids to know the importance of wearing clothes and eating food that was prepared justly and not by a child their age in a sweatshop.
I want my kids to know that God will care for their needs, but that it is more important to live simply so that others might simply live.
I want my kids to have fun, playing at the park, reading books at the library, going on adventures all over town, building castles out of refrigerator boxes, redeeming others trash into tree forts.
Afterword (one year later)
It’s been a little over one year since we’ve begun to explore the world in a new light as we chase our little daughter wherever her feet will take her. One year isn’t really a definitive point at which to declare victory, but we’ve found small bits of encouragement as we look back and continue to look forward. Our daughter is as likely to wave at the disheveled drunk man on the bus as she is to pat on the back the nuns who live a few houses down. Her only fascination with televisions and computer screens is the ability to turn them off (and on, and off, and on, and off). She enjoys picking tomatoes in the garden, though she hasn’t learned what’s ripe – which brings us so much joy since they are from our backyard or the community gardens in the neighborhood. She’s spent much more time traveling in strollers, backpacks, and bike carriers than riding in her car-seat – the only down-side of which is that she tends to be squirmy and unhappy when we have to strap her into it. Our little girl is going to grow up in a community that is as culturally diverse as possible, given that we live in Minnesota, and she is going to have a much easier time spotting the oppressive structures of poverty and racism than we who have grown up oblivious to our privilege since we don’t know anyone adversely affected by it. So really, even though there is so much more to do; even though we could dwell on where we fall short in our abilities to be at protests and attempts to stop world-hunger, hopefully we are changing not just ourselves, but the whole world just one little girl at a time.
(Published in Geez Magazine, Issue 12, The what-is-commonly-referred-to-as Activism Issue, Winter 2008)
Somewhere along the way in doing this blogging thing something happened. Either my blog became popular, or more accurately, blogging became popular and recognized by businesses as a tool to sell you stuff. Regardless, the reality is that people want my to talk about certain stuff on my blog. Mostly, I get sent books and occasionally a DVD or CD. And, in recent months, I’ve let those items pile up and begin to gether dust on the book shelf (sorry!). However, I’ve took a look at a few and thought I’d give my brief thoughts and reviews. So, in no particular order…
NKJV Chronological Study Bible
I’m not particularly a fan of the KJV or the NKJV. If I remember correctly (and I probably don’t), the KJV is based on an outdated manuscript collection. Since the KJV came out, more manuscripts, older and more accurate to the original letters and books of the Bible, have been discovered. So, KJV while an ‘older’ more ‘traditiona’ translation, is actually not as ‘old’ and accurate as other translations that are based off of these other manuscripts.
That said, the Choronological layout of this Bible is pretty cool. It’s also pretty impractical if your planning on using it in any fashion other then a cover to cover read. Trying to find a passage from Psalms in it is next to impossible. The illustrations and study notes are interesting, but unimpressive. Lot’s of old school European paintings of Jesus, not a single depecition from any other ethnic history or origin. Seems to me that the textual translation isn’t the only thing that is stuck in an old mindset, the publisher was too. Over all I was unimpressed and while I definitely think there’s plenty of value to glean from the text, regardless of translation, I’d recommend you look for a different version.
(Didn’t realize that one was going to be so harsh. Sorry, but they don’t ask you to be positive when they send you this stuff, and that’s my honest opinion)
A while back I wrote an article about Fair Trade Footwear, and I mentioned TOMS Shoes. It’s basically a cloth slip-on, and when you buy a pair, a child who needs shoes gets a pair as well. Anyways, TOMS noticed some traffic coming their way from my site or something and they sent me a DVD about the last shoe drop (where they bring the shoes to the kids). I haven’t watched it yet. Then, they sent me this beautiful handmade cloth from Ethiopia. Both just gifts to say thank you for supporting TOMS Shoes. What I appreciate is that they recognize the importance of creating allies and advocates in their work. What I’m surprised by is that they haven’t addressed some of the questions that arose in the comments section on that post about the labor conditions where the TOMS Shoes are actually made. Maybe they’ll send me a pair, size 13, along with an explanation of the labor practices where they were made (and if you don’t have a good answer, I don’t want a pair).
One of the other ways I get stuff is through a program called Ooze Select Bloggers. They sent me a CD a while back by Evensong Rising. It’s a pretty interesting group. I’m terrible at music reviews, I’m not sure how to describe genres or anything like that. Supposedly they have a new kind of sound (according to others they are ‘ancient/future’ worship) but they seem like a typical praise band to me. I didn’t get to read through the lyrics too much, but there was one song I heard that I really liked, Rise Up (I’ll include the lyrics at the bottom of the post). Overall, I think they’re lyrics are a refreshing change. The group is fairly diverse, also a welcome change, and the music is at times unique. I’m still hoping for a more diverse music selection from the emerging church and neo-monastic crew, preferably some Hip-Hop.
That’s all I have time for. Definitely some more brief reviews coming at some point. But this is it for now.
Words and Music by Chris Sorenson
A world of darkness… People are scared
A world of hunger… People unfed
A world of anger… People in pain
A world of sorrow… People in need
We pray… Lord bring them light
We pray… Lord bring them food
We pray… Lord bring them justice
We pray… And we hear you say Refrain
You are my hands and my feet
You bring the hope that they seek
You build my kingdom so it’s
TIME TO RISE UP
Stomp out their hunger for Me
Kill all injustice for Me
You build my kingdom so it’s
TIME TO RISE UP
Our world is freezing… People unclothed
Our world in slavery… People oppressed
Our world is warring… People displaced
Our world is dying… People all thirst
We pray… Lord bring them shelter
We pray… Lord set them free
We pray… Lord bring them peace
We pray… And we hear you say
This is definitely worth some thought and attention:
Wish I’d seen this before Thanksgiving. A great video from CT on Thanksgiving
This is a 30 minute video, but I wanted to at least post it. It’s a TPT (Twin Cities Public Television) documentary on homeless youth. For anyone in the twin cities area, I’d recommend taking some time to watch it.
(This will be a brief confession/rant, not in hopes that you’ll join my cynicism but that you’ll instead prove it wrong)
I can’t help but be a little skeptical of the popularity of Advent Conspiracy this year. I’m in support of the type of action they are encouraging people to take, but I still find myself questioning the motives. It would seem that when times are tough, wallets are slim and the economy is in a recession, we all have personal reasons, as well as altruistic ones, to avoid consumerism this season. It’s a lot easier for me to say “We decided to curb our consumerism and give of our time to others instead this season” rather then “money’s tight and I can’t afford to buy presents this year so I’m looking for a cheaper alternative that will make me feel good.”
The truth is it’s also a time that a lot of people are hurting and in need, so I have to admit its a great time for folks to be making some commitments to service and giving of their time and energy to those in unfortunate circumstances.
Maybe it’s just that I know myself too well, and a tendency to paint every action and decision with some self-sacrificial altruistic motive. I just hope I’m wrong about other people. Whether it’s their experience in giving this year, or the impect of being squeezed by recession, or some other factor, my prayer is that we as a society, and as a church, continue in putting others before ourselves even when our wallets are full.
The Long Tail is another book in the vein of Sway, The Tipping Point, Freakonomics and many others. The byline: Why The Future of Business is Selling Less of More. Chris Anderson, the author, is the editor of a very popular tech magazine called WIRED.
The idea being that in our popular culture, for years, the way business, particularly music and movies, but also everything else, have been dominated by the Hits. In fact, you pretty much only heard of or knew of the hits, since prior to the internet there hasn’t been a great way to pass learn about the rest.
Anyways, the book is extremely interesting, but is a tiny bit on the academic, numbers, theories, side of things, rather then stories. Anyone who is in business or plans on being in business (of any kind really) should probably read this book.
The conclusion made is basically that there is a lot of room now for everyone, not just the blockbusters and platinum albums of the world. That we don’t need to be famous artist, or writers, or actors to have a place. There isn’t a good way for me to summarize all the different things he talked about, so I’d just recommend the book.
I will leave you with some quotes though:
The supermarket helped create the Middle Class. Its low prices freed up substantial funds for families to spend on cars, homes, education and other needs and amenities of life. As supermarkets proliferated in the 1950s and 1960s, they played a pivotal role in creating the American middle class. On the supermarket’s silver anniversary, President Kennedy said that the supermarket’s low-cost mass marketing techniques “. . . have enabled a higher standard of living and have contributed importantly to our economic growth.” -from Food Marketing Institute p. 45
On The Long Tail of warefare:
Traditionally, warfare (the ability to change society through violence) has been limited to nation-states (except in rare cases). States had a monopoly on violence. The result was a limited, truncated distribution of violence (a power law). That monopoly is on the skids due to three trends:
* A democratization of the tools of warfare. Niche producers (for example: gangs) are made possible by the dislocation of globalization. All it takes to participate is a few men, some boxcutters, and a plane (as an example of simple tools combined with leverage from ubiquitous economic infrastructure).
* An amplification of the damage caused by niche producers of warfare. The magic of global guerrilla systems disruption which turns inexpensive attacks into major economic and social events.
* The acceleration of word of mouth. New groups can more easily find/train recruits, convey their message to a wide audience, and find/coordinate their activities with other groups (allies).
The result: a long tail has developed. New niche producers of violence have flourished. Demand for the results these niche suppliers can produce has also radically increased. Big concepts (such as a struggle between Islam and the US), not championed by states, has supercharged niche suppliers like al Qaeda and its clones.
Because I’m interested in Wikipedia and wikis for InsideNorthside, I thought this was worth mention:
Is Wikipedia “authoritative”? Well, no. But what really is? Britannica is reviewed by a smaller group of reviewers with higher academic degrees on average. There are, to be sure, fewer (if any) total clunkers or fabrications than in Wikipedia. But it’s not infallible either; indeed, it’s a lot more flawed that we usually give it credit for.
Britannica’s biggest errors are of omission, not commission. It’s shallow in some categories and out of date in many others. And then there are the millions of entries that it simply doesn’t–and can’t, given its editorial process–have. But Wikipedia can scale to include those and many more. Today Wikipedia offers 860,000 articles in English – compared with Britannica’s 80,000 and Encarta’s 4,500. Tomorrow the gap will be far larger. –p.69
Regarding book sales (I never knew):
in 2004, 950,000 titles out of the 1.2 million tracked by Nielsen Bookscan sold fewer than 99 copies. Another 200,000 sold fewer than 1,000 copies. Only 25,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. The average book in America sells about 500 copies. In other words about 98 percent of books are noncommercial, whether they were intended that way or not. -p. 76
Interesting statement regarding our society being “post-scarcity” (scarcity being a basic economic principle):
And what is the motive force behind China and India’s rise if not abundant labor, allowing them to, in a sense, waste people? -p. 145
The charge by mainstream journalists that blogging lacks checks and balances is obtuse. The blogosphere has more checks and balances than the conventional media; only they are different. The model is Friedrich Hayek’s classic analysis of how the economic market pools enormous quantities of information efficiently despite its decentralized character, its lack of a master coordinator or regulator, and the very limited knowledge possessed by each of its participants.
In effect, the blogosphere is a collective enterprise – not 12 million separate enterprises, but one enterprise with 12 million reporters, feature writers and editorialists, yet with almost no costs. It’s as if The Associated Press or Reuters had millions of reporters, many of them experts, all working with no salary for free newspapers that carried no advertising.
On the internet making us more open minded:
Since nothing on the Web is authoritative, it’s up to you to consult enough sources so that you can make up your own mind. This [The Web] is the end of spoon-fed orthodoxy and infallible institutions, and the rise of messy mosaics of information that require—and reward—investigation. The sixties told us to question authority, but they didn’t provide us with the tools to do so. Now we have those tools. The question today is how best to use them without becoming overwhelmed by uncertainty. p. 190-191(ht. for typing)
Probably enough quotes for one book. Hope you enjoyed!