Review: Roots: The Saga of an American Family

Roots: The Saga of an American Family
Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This historical fiction novel covers this history of the a black family. How their ancestor started in Africa, was brought to America as a slave, and how the family fared under that despicable institution.

Alex Haley learned the stories of his family passed down along the generations to him. And using the details of the stories, researched for more, and from that wrote this novel.

The visceral emotions evoked were probably due to feeling connected to it. Over the past couple years I have researched my own genealogy. That came about after taking a DNA test and realizing I could use suggested relatives to find more information. But, Kunta Kinte, the Haley ancestor knew his grandfather was from the same part of Africa as my Y-DNA has the highest concentration (suggesting the origin location). Reading Roots feels like what my story could be if only I could find the same information.

I suspect this is why the show captured the American imagination.

View all my reviews

Drinking Sweet Tea

Amber Yellow circle ring pattern glasses
Amber Yellow circle ring pattern glasses

… from a glass which my mother gave me from my grandmother’s estate. There is nothing physically valuable about it. Just simple melted silicon with maybe sulfur. (Maybe they are something friends who collect things from the 60s and 70s would like.)

Found them on listed on Etsy as:

Amber Yellow circle ring pattern glasses: 3 Nice Amber-Yellow glasses. They have a 70s vibe, circle/ring pattern. Would make a nice large glass of tea on a hot summer day. Enjoy!

So it is funny that I am drinking tea on a hot summer day (the thing the description above says to use them for).

Their value is in reminding me of hanging out on her deck playing a game, talking about the plans for how to improve the flowers, mowing her yard, and playing with my cousins. Oh, and watching movies she recorded on her VCR.

They make me smile. 🙂

Social Ghost Archetypes

I met Allie for the second time at a birthday party. The birthday girl is a Social Tech Ghost. Allie is a Pseudonym Surfer and former Dunbarian. Another person at the party is an Infrequent Checker. I decided these remain legitimate strategies to keep from getting drawn into spending too much time online. Since I like to label things, Social Ghosts, stuck in my head. From the perspective of someone relying on social network web sites to communicate, these are difficult people to locate, keep, or reach. Much like ghosts.
🙂

The Social Tech Ghost: This person entirely abstains from social network web sites. This is a person who wants to see you in person or talk to you on the phone. Email is grudgingly accepted. Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, and Friendster are accused of ruining friendships due to being impersonal. They are fads to be resisted in order to maintain strong social bonds. Probably this person would be a fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s article Small Change except they do not read my blog post about weak ties, Twitter, or Facebook so they did not know about me posting the article.

The Pseudonym Surfer Ghost: He or she participates online under fake names. You drop them from your friend list because you have no idea who they are. They might work in an environment hostile to employees getting tagged in photos of wild parties. They might be online to interact with a handful of family and close friends not any random acquaintance who feels they deserve to be friends.

The Infrequent Checker Ghost: This person has a profile. However, months can go by between logins. Peer pressure forced them to get an account, but there is no peer pressure to actually use it.

The Dunbarian Ghost: Too many “friends” causes this person to purge. The right number may or may not be Dunbar’s Number: a mean of 147.8. What is important is the person feels the need to be social with everyone on the list of friends and too many makes that too hard. Therefore some need to get lost.

I am sure there are more. What other social ghost archetypes do you know?

P.S. From the “In Real Life” perspective, I am a Social Ghost. So. Meh.

Merry Christmas

Christmas Tree

So far it has been a good day. My grandmother the whole family has rallied around appears to be improving. The rest of the family are doing well. Friends are scattered to the four winds to visit with family.

I am content. It as been a good year.

December Dilemma

From a CNN article, For Many, December’s a Dilemma by Joe Sterling (mentioned by Phillipe Copeland):

Navigating the Christmas season can be a challenge for the millions of people who don’t celebrate the holiday. Many acknowledge and sometime embrace the season’s customs, such as gift-giving and sending out greeting cards, while at the same time they are conscious of maintaining their own religious identities.

I will admit, when I was Catholic, Christmas was significantly easier. There was no conflict as I was wholly within the mainstream of others I knew. Choosing to become a member of the Bahá’í Faith didn’t significantly reduce the importance of Christmas for me. Bahá’í don’t celebrate Christmas with each other. Nor would we alienate those around us who choose to celebrate. Similarly, I would hope people don’t feel alienated when I fast in the

We still eat with family on Christmas Day. True, I no longer to to midnight or Christmas Day mass. My mother, who is also a Bahá’í stopped giving Christmas presents and only gave Ayyám-i-Há presents, a Bahá’í celebration in February just prior to our Fast and New Year. She does give presents to my brother and his wife who give and receive presents with their other family. I no longer expect Christmas presents or put up a tree, but that is okay.

Keep in mind Christmas as we celebrate it now, merges several holidays, making it convoluted. The primary one, the birth of Jesus, resonates with the Baha’i Faith. We recognize the station of Jesus and all his accomplishments. The Wiccan / Druidic winter solstice, Germanic Yuletide, the Roman Saturnia all are comingled into Christmas. As other faiths like Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Islam, Judaism, and even Kwanzaa deal with the surrounding peoples celebrating Christmas, their traditions could trade in and out with Christmas. In the end, the sentiment of giving gifts is a good one, assuming one doesn’t go to excess.

The real dilemma ought to be what is the impact of gift giving. Joel Waldfogel, an economist, thinks receivers value gifts less than the giver, causing a loss in value to the economy, so he recommends gift cards. Several Bahá’ís and Christians I know donate to charities instead of gifts.

TED Talk: Taryn Simon

My favorite quote from Taryn is, “Photography threatens fantasy.” Disney uses intricate interior design, photography, and video to construct fantasy. Advertisements, magazines, weddings, and portraits are about showing others the ideal instead of the reality. Have you seen the Dove Evolution video? (This one has music and singing by a Baha’i musician Devon Gundry.) What about the Ralph Lauren photo?

Reality bites. Hard.

(See Taryn Simon photographs secret sites on the TED site)

TED About this talk: Taryn Simon exhibits her startling take on photography — to reveal worlds and people we would never see otherwise. She shares two projects: one documents otherworldly locations typically kept secret from the public, the other involves haunting portraits of men convicted for crimes they did not commit.

Also: Taryn on Charlie Rose, Discomfort Zone (Telegraph)

Stalking Students

On the BLKBRD-L email list is a discussion about proving students are cheating. Any time the topic comes up, someone says a human in a room is the only way to be sure. Naturally, someone else responds with the latest and greatest technology to detect cheating.

In this case, Acxiom offers identity verification:

By matching a student’s directory information (name, address, phone) to our database, we match the student to our database. The student then must answer questions to verify their identity, which may include name, address and date of birth.


The institution never releases directory information so there are no Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) violations.

However, to complete the course work the student is forced to hand over the information to Acxiom, an unknown and potentially untrusted party. Why should students trust Acxiom when institutions cannot be trusted?

Due to the decentralized nature of IT departments, higher education leads all industries in numbers data breach events. Acxiom’s verification capabilities were designed so that student and instructor privacy is a critical feature of our solution. Institutions never receive the data Acxiom uses in this process. They are simply made aware of the pass/fail rates.

In other words, high education institutions cannot be trusted to handle this information. No reason was provided as to why Acxiom can be better trusted. Guess the people reading this would never check to see whether Acxiom has also had data breaches.

This Electronic Freedom Foundation response to Acxiom’s claims their method is more secure was interesting:

True facts about your life are, by definition, pre-compromised. If the bio question is about something already in the consumer file, arguably the best kind of question is about something that is highly unlikely to be in one’s consumer file and even useless commercially–like my pet’s name.

Answering these kinds of questions feels like more of violation of than a preservation of privacy.

VistaSWAT

Do you run one of these versions of the former WebCT products?

  • CE4.x
  • CE6.x
  • CE8.x
  • Vista 3.x
  • Vista 4.x
  • Vista 8.x

If so, then you should join us for the next Vista SWAT web conference call Thursday, May 14th (and every other Thursday). We help each other solve issues and better understand how to use / run the product.

To be added to the Vista SWAT e-mail list, please e-mail jeff.longland who uses the uwo.ca domain. He graciously sends out the reminders.

I’m sure the Blackboard acquisition of ANGEL will get discussed.
🙂 

Resolutions For 2009

  1. Read 10,000 pages of science, economics, health, history, or policy books. For 2008, it was read 25 books. This year, I thought to change it page-based as the previous one shied me away from larger books. Two 350 page books vs one 700 page book shouldn’t be a concern. See Reading for last and this years’ progress.
  2. Be more social. A lot of will power is required to force myself to attend social events. Over the years it has only gotten worse. Before it reaches the point of requiring professional help, I probably ought to change my habits.

Useful resolutions to me are things I realistically can and will accomplish applying moderate effort. Making too hard of a challenge will result in giving up too quickly. Making too easy of a challenge will result in doing something I would do anyway. Last year was the first time in a really long time I even bothered other than using 43things to make some goals I rarely have met more by accident than any real intent.

Some resolutions I would pick I already do to the extent I realistically would….

  • Take the stairs and walk more. I already do these as far down the exercise more resolution as I realistically will go.
  • Eat better. I already mostly avoid red meat and eat lots of green vegetables.
  • Spend more time with family.

There are resolutions I would never actually keep without support from family and friends I don’t really have to keep me honest and stick to the narrow path….

  • Less fat, less sugar, no soda, no sweet tea.
  • Exercise more.
  • Finances.
  • Organization.
  • Less time spent in front of the TV or computer.
  • More blogging.
  • I already do not smoke or drink alcohol.
  • Get a Master’s Degree.

Hmmmmmm… Resolutions are bad for your health?

I haven’t checked my blog in a long while.


Followup on resolution #1. Apparently I did not followup on the 2nd?

Christmas Blog Post 2008

Last night I read Uncle Bill’s Christmas letter. He mailed it, but he apparently doesn’t have my postal address so I got the electronic version. Woohoo! His letter recaps the year for his family. Do any of you have such a tradition? Or a family member who does? Oddly my blog doesn’t provide much basis as it is devoid of personal information.

So here goes….

Family

Mom went off to Houston in January to consult with one of the best doctors in the country about a health issue. How things fell into place to allow her to get better amazed me daily. I got to grandparent sit for a week where I made Nannie tell stories so I could post them on Youtube. 😀

William married Nicole, his high school sweetheart. I finally have a sister. It rained on us briefly, so if you are into superstitions, that means either: 1) kids, 2) money, or 3) good luck.

I met Dad’s girlfriend, Sally, this year. She is definitely very nice. I’m happy with the match.

Friends

My only New Year’s Resolution for 2008 was to read 25 books this year. I completed that goal back in October. I’m thinking for 2008 to do a similar resolution. This time I’ll count up the number of pages and set a goal to read 20% more pages.

Some fellow Flickr users started an Athens Flickr Meetup. I’m hoping this is something to continue in 2009 as the weather improves. (Though who knew Georgia would be 20 degrees Farenheit above normal in December?)

RingsAdrianne and Britt asked me to be the photographer for their wedding. I spent hours looking at professional photographer portfolios for ideas about what I should capture. You see, while I do have a camera, I had never really taken photos at a wedding. Heck, few people invite me to weddings, so I was a little unclear what happens. In the end, I think it all turned out pretty well. Adrianne is happy. So I am happy. Working in computers became a profession because it was a hobby. Maybe photography will end up the same in the end? Posted 840 photos to Flickr this year. Started freelovephotography.com to show off my photography.

Las Vegas in July? Dumb. Star Trek: The Experience made my geeky heart soar.
NCC-1701-DNCC-1701-D @ ST: TXP