Ta-Nehisi Coates: What This Cruel War Was Over

Coates lays out the sick and twist­ed her­itage of a sym­bol:

The Con­fed­er­ate flag is direct­ly tied to the Con­fed­er­ate cause, and the Con­fed­er­ate cause was white suprema­cy. This claim is not the result of revi­sion­ism. It does not require read­ing between the lines. It is the plain mean­ing of the words of those who bore the Con­fed­er­ate flag across his­to­ry. These words must nev­er be for­got­ten. Over the next few months the word “her­itage” will be repeat­ed­ly invoked. It would be derelict to not exam­ine the exact con­tents of that her­itage.

As usu­al, Coates does a great job look­ing at the chang­ing myths sur­round­ing South­ern White Suprema­cy. A rebel­lion that explic­it­ly start­ed as a defense of slav­ery shift­ed to more polite alter­na­tive myths over 150 years but it’s still real­ly about racism and human bondage. The flag needs to come down.

This mythol­o­gy of man­ners is adopt­ed in lieu of the mythol­o­gy of the Lost Cause. But it still has the great draw­back of being root­ed in a lie. The Con­fed­er­ate flag should not come down because it is offen­sive to African Amer­i­cans. The Con­fed­er­ate flag should come down because it is embar­rass­ing to all Amer­i­cans.

Retooling after Google Reader

I must admit I’ve been thrown off my blog read­ing by the demise of Google Read­er, closed July 1 with only a few months warn­ing. I remem­ber when Google’s was the newest mem­ber of the RSS read­ing options. Its sim­ple inter­face and relatively-solid per­for­mance even­tu­al­ly won me over and its com­peti­tors grad­u­al­ly stopped inno­vat­ing and final­ly closed. 

In the last few months oth­er ser­vices have tak­en up the chal­lenge of replac­ing Read­er, but it’s been a chaot­ic process and a gam­ble which would be rolled out in time. One of my go-to pro­grams, Reed­er, now works for the phone but not the Mac app. It runs off of the Feed­ly ser­vice, which I now use in the brows­er to access my feeds. 

I rely on these blog read­ing ser­vices to keep track of over 100 blogs. RSS may not be sexy enough to be a mass-market ser­vice but for those of us whose tem­per­me­nts or hob­bies run toward cura­tion, it’s an essen­tial tool. As the new sys­tems mature, I hope to keep up with my Quak­erquak­er read­ing more thor­ough­ly.

Share my offendedness (pleeeaaase)

Some­times I see blog posts that make me real­ly sad at the state of jour­nal­ism. Phi­ly­Mag is the lat­est but you have the fol­low the daisy-chain of ramped-up hyper­bole back just to make see how ridicu­lous it is.

The restau­rant chain Red Robin recent­ly made a fifteen-second TV ad whose joke is that its veggie-burgers are per­fect for cus­tomers whose teenage daugh­ters are “going through a phase.” It’s had rather lim­it­ed air­play (it’s the 450th or so most run ad in the past 30 days) but still, Busi­ness Insid­er ran a piece on it which claimed that “the chain man­aged to insult all poten­tial veg­e­tar­i­an and veg­an cus­tomers” with the ad. For evi­dence, it cit­ed three mild com­ments on Red Robin’s Face­book page. Fair enough.

But then the page-view-whores at Huff­in­g­ton Post saw the BI piece and wrote that Red Robin is “under fire for diss­ing veg­e­tar­i­ans,” still cit­ing just those Face­book com­ments. Under fire? For three com­ments?

Sens­ing fresh (veg­gie?) meat, Philly­mag links to Huff­Post to claim that ”veg­e­tar­i­ans and veg­ans far and wide are freak­ing out” and that a boy­cott has been declared. The author tells us that “‘Offend­ed’ gets tossed around so rapid­ly” and it must be true, right?, as she uses it three more times just in her open­ing para­graph. It’s a pity that none of the three Face­book com­menters were con­sid­er­ate enough to actu­al­ly use the words “out­rage” or “boy­cott.” One described the ad as “dis­ap­point­ing” (ouch!). Anoth­er used the word “dis­sat­is­fied” (zing!), though he was speak­ing not about the ad per se but rather a recent vis­it to the restau­rant.

Seems like if there is an epi­dem­ic of offended-ness going on, we might take a look at the des­per­a­tion of what pass­es for mod­ern jour­nal­ism these days. Offended-ness must get page views, so why not be offend­ed at being offend­ed? (I imag­ine some hack fur­ther down the pageview food chain is right now read­ing the Philly­mag piece and typ­ing out a head­line about the world­wide veg­an army issu­ing a fat­wa on the teenage daugh­ters of Red Roof exec­u­tives.) Is this real­ly the kind of crap that peo­ple like to share on Face­book? Do Inter­net users just not fol­low links back­ward to judge if there’s any truth to out­rage posts on out­rage? I usu­al­ly ignore this kind of junk even to read past the ridicu­lous head­line. But the phe­nom­e­non is all too ubiq­ui­tous on the inter­webs these days and is real­ly so unnec­es­sar­i­ly divi­sive and stereotype-perpetuating.

A social media snapshot

When I first start­ed blog­ging fif­teen years ago, the process was sim­ple. I’d open up a file, hand-edit the HTML code and upload it to a web­serv­er – those were the days! Now every social web ser­vice is like a blog unto itself. The way I have them inter­act is occa­sion­al­ly dizzy­ing even to me. Recent­ly a friend asked on Face­book what peo­ple used Tum­blr for, and I thought it might be a good time to sur­vey my cur­rent web ser­vices. These shift and change con­stant­ly but per­haps oth­ers will find it an inter­est­ing snap­shot of hooked-together media cir­ca 2012.

The glue services you don’t see:

  • Google Read­er. I still try to keep up with about a hun­dred blogs, most­ly spir­i­tu­al in nature. The old tried-and-true Google Read­er still orga­nizes it all, though I often read it through the Android app News­Rob.
  • Diigo. This took the place of the clas­sic social book­mark­ing site Deli­cious when it had a near-death expe­ri­ence a few years ago (it’s nev­er come back in a form that would make me recon­sid­er it). When­ev­er I see some­thing inter­est­ing I want to share, I post it here, where it gets cross-posted to my Twit­ter and Tum­blr sites. I’ve book­marked over 4500 sites over the last seven-plus years. It’s an essen­tial archive that I use for remem­ber­ing sites I’ve liked in the past. Diigo book­marks that are tagged “Quak­er” get sucked into an alter­nate route where they become edi­tor fea­tures for Quak​erQuak​er​.org.
  • Pock­et (for­mer­ly Read it Lat­er). I’m in the envi­able posi­tion that many of my per­son­al inter­ests over­lap with my pro­fes­sion­al work. While work­ing, I’ll often find some inter­est­ing Quak­er arti­cle that I want to read lat­er. Hence Pock­et, a ser­vice that will instant­ly book­mark the site and make it avail­able for lat­er read­ing.
  • Flip­board is a great mobile app that lets you read arti­cles on top­ics you like. Com­bine it with Twit­ter lists and you have a per­son­al­ized read­ing list. I use this every day, most­ly for blogs and news sites I like to read but don’t con­sid­er so essen­tial that I need to catch every­thing they pub­lish.
  • Ifttt​.com. A handy ser­vice named after the log­i­cal con­struct “IF This, Then That,” Ifttt will take one social feed and cross-post it to anoth­er under var­i­ous con­di­tions. For exam­ple, I have Diigo posts cross-post to Twit­ter and Flickr posts cross­post to Face­book. Some of the Ifttt “recip­ies” are behind the scenes, like the one that takes every post on Word­Press and adds it to my pri­vate Ever­note account for archival pur­pos­es.

The Public-Facing Me:

  • Word­Press (Quak​er​ran​ter​.org). The blog you’re read­ing. It orig­i­nal­ly start­ed as a Move­able Type-powered blog when that was the hip blog­ging plat­form (I’m old). A few years ago I went through a painstak­ing process to bring it over to Word­Press in such a way that its Disqus-powered com­ments would be pre­served.
  • Twit­ter. I’ve long loved Twit­ter, though like many techies I’m wor­ried about the direc­tion it’s head­ed. They’ve recent­ly locked most of the ser­vices that read Twit­ter feeds and reprocess it. If this weren’t hap­pen­ing, I’d use it as a default chan­nel for just about every­thing. In the mean­time, only about half of my tweets are direct from the ser­vice – the remain­der are auto-imports from Diigo, Insta­gram, etc.
  • Tum­blr (Quack​Quack​.org). I like Tum­blr although my site there (quack​quack​.org) gets very few direct vis­its. I most­ly use it as a “links blog” of inter­est­ing things I find in my inter­net wan­der­ings. Most items come in via Diigo, though if I have time I’ll sup­ple­ment things with my own thoughts or pic­tures. Most peo­ple prob­a­bly see this via the side­bar of the Quak­er­Ran­ter site.
  • Face­book. It may seem I post a lot on Face­book, but 95 per­cent of what goes up there is import­ed from some oth­er ser­vice. But, because more peo­ple are on Face­book than any­where else, it’s the place I get the most com­ments. I gen­er­al­ly use it to reply to com­ments and see what friends are up to. I don’t like Face­book per se because of its pater­nal­ist con­trols on what can be seen and its recent moves to force con­tent providers to pay for vis­i­bil­i­ty for their own fan pages.
  • Flickr. Once the dar­ling of pho­to sites, Flickr’s been the heart­break of the hip­ster set more times than I can remem­ber. It has a ter­ri­ble mobile app and always lags behind every oth­er ser­vice but I have over 4000 pic­tures going back to 2005. This is my pho­to archive (much more so than the fail­ing disk dri­ves on a suc­ces­sion of lap­tops).

Honorable Mentions

  • I use Foursquare all the time but I don’t think many peo­ple notice it.
  • Right now, most of my pho­tos start off with the mobile app Insta­gram, handy despite the now-tired con­ceit of its square for­mat (cute when it was the art­sy under­dog, cloy­ing now that it’s the billion-dollar main­stream ser­vice).
  • Like most of the plan­et I use Youtube for videos. I like Vimeo but Youtube is par­tic­u­lar­ly con­ve­nient when shoot­ing from a Google-based phone and it’s where the view­ers are.
  • I gave up my old cus­tom site at Mar​tinKel​ley​.com for a Fla​vors​.me account. Its flex­i­bil­i­ty lets me eas­i­ly link to the ser­vices I use.

When I write all this out it seems so com­pli­cat­ed. But the aim is con­ve­nience: a sim­ple few key­strokes that feed into ser­vices dis­sem­i­nate infor­ma­tion across a series of web pres­ences.

Is a golden age of reading is gradually, suddenly, almost here?

A must-read piece from Cory Doc­torow for those inter­est­ed in the changes in pub­lish­ing, Why the death of DRM would be good news for read­ers, writ­ers and pub­lish­ers.  He’s pre­dict­ing the end of DRM (dig­i­tal rights man­age­ment) and look­ing for­ward to a day when for­mats and read­ers are inter­changable:

The cheap-and-cheerful man­u­fac­tur­ers at the low end don’t have a sec­ondary mar­ket they’re try­ing to pro­tect, no app store or cru­cial ven­dor rela­tion­ship with a big dis­trib­u­tor or pub­lish­er. They just want a prod­uct that ticks the box for every pos­si­ble cus­tomer. Since mul­ti­for­mat sup­port is just a mat­ter of get­ting the soft­ware right, what tends to hap­pen is that a stan­dard, com­mod­i­ty firmware emerges for these devices that just works for just about every­thing, and the for­mats van­ish into the back­ground.

Many read­ers and pub­lish­ers have been upset at the recent Depart­ment of Jus­tice accu­sa­tions of price-fixing by major pub­lish­ers. The real bad guy, we’re remind­ed over and over, is Ama­zon. The pub­lish­ers are so scared of Ama­zon that they devel­oped a pric­ing scheme (the “agency mod­el”) that often nets them less mon­ey than they get from Ama­zon. But for all it’s mar­ket share, most of Amazon’s advan­tages come from smart sales­man­ship and a big-picture view that helps it devel­op an ecosys­tem that “locks in” cus­tomers (e.g., I use Ama­zon video on demand to watch TV, which means I get free ship­ping when I pur­chase from them, I get to “bor­row” an elec­tron­ic book a month, etc., which means when I want­ed to buy an e-reader, it was real­ly only a mat­ter of which mod­el of Kin­dle I would choose). As Doc­torow points out, the most ubiqutious e-reader is the cell­phone and most of us get a new one every two years – Amazon’s dom­i­nance could end rel­a­tive­ly quick­ly with the right com­pe­ti­tion. Get­ting rid of DRM con­tent lev­els the play­ing field.

I’m not sure I’m as opti­mistic as Doc­torow that DRM is about to sim­ply dis­ap­pear. But I agree it’s what needs to hap­pen. It would make Ama­zon just anoth­er sell­er. Pub­lish­ers could stop focus­ing on it and start tak­ing tak­ing more respons­bil­i­ty for shap­ing the future of pub­lish­ing. (Where might that be going? Five Rea­sons The Future Will Be Ruled By B.S. is a high­ly enter­tain­ing read and more cor­rect than incor­rect.) But gloom is not the fore­cast. A recent arti­cle in The Atlantic (chart right) per­sua­sive­ly argues that we are in a Gold­en Age of read­er­ship:

Our col­lec­tive mem­o­ry of past is astound­ing­ly inac­cu­rate. Not only has the num­ber of peo­ple read­ing not declined pre­cip­i­tous­ly, it’s actu­al­ly gone up since the per­ceived gold­en age of Amer­i­can let­ters. So, then why is there this wide­spread per­cep­tion that we are a fall­en lit­er­ary peo­ple? I think, as Mar­shall Kirk­patrick says, that social media acts as a kind of truth serum. Before, only the lit­er­ary peo­ple had plat­forms. Now, all the peo­ple have plat­forms.

The oth­er thread that’s been run­ning through my head these past few weeks is a G+ post from Tim O’Reilly that pulls a quote from ter­rif­ic quote from Hem­ing­way (“How did you go bank­rupt?” “Two ways. Grad­u­al­ly, then sud­den­ly.”):

I love lines from lit­er­a­ture that crys­tal­lize a notion, and then become tools in your men­tal tool­box. This is one of those. Keep it handy, because you’re going to see “grad­u­al­ly, then sud­den­ly” process­es hap­pen increas­ing­ly in the next few decades, not just in tech­nol­o­gy and in indus­tries trans­formed by tech­nol­o­gy, but in glob­al issues like cli­mate change, and in pol­i­tics.

Using apps to help kids with autism

Sounds like a therapy that can get pretty expensive pretty quickly, and the article shares concerns about just how helpful all of these might be. Still, I have to admit it's pretty amazing to watch my 6yo playing the reading games on reasdingeggs.com website and he's pretty instinctive with the touchscreen of my smart phone.

Embedded Link

Using apps to help treat autism | Macworld
Some parents of autistic children see benefits from the use of apps and technology; however, experts raise concerns.

Posted February 12th, 2012 , in Uncategorized Tagged

Bible Illiterate No More

One Year BibleA bit of a mile­stone – I fin­ished the One Year Bible read­ing plan last night! I man­aged to stretch it out to 27 months but that’s alright. I start­ed in Jan­u­ary 2009 and ini­tial­ly kept the dai­ly read­ings going till May of that year, when I feel hope­less­ly behind. I kept a men­tal note of the date and in May 2010 I start­ed where I had left off. I kept read­ing reg­u­lar­ly until the last week in Decem­ber, when I was under­stand­ably dis­tract­ed by the birth of our third son Gre­go­ry on 12/28. Know­ing I want­ed to keep the cycle going, I skipped that week and start­ed again on Jan­u­ary 1, 2011. It was only last night that I went back and fin­ished up that last week – fea­tur­ing Malachi and Rev­e­la­tions (which has the Lamb’s War metaphor so impor­tant to ear­ly Friends).

Thanks go to Gregg Kosela and AJ Schwanz for let­ting me know such a thing as one year Bible read­ing plans exist­ed. I had nev­er been able to stick to a reg­u­lar Bible-reading reg­i­men before. The grand­moth­er who fre­quent­ly declared me a Bible illit­er­ate would be so proud! (Actu­al­ly not, she’d find some­thing else to cri­tique, but her hangups around fam­i­ly and “Chris­t­ian” liv­ing are a much longer blog post!).

It’s been great hav­ing a reg­u­lar spir­i­tu­al prac­tice. I’m glad I can find my way around the Bible now and my under­stand­ing of Friends has deep­ened. The ear­ly Quak­er writ­ings are steeped in Bib­li­cal allu­sions and we miss a lot when we miss those ref­er­ences.