On Monuments

We built monuments to display our pride of winning or mourn our loss. They represent what we considered the great things about our society in the past as lessons for the present and future. In that light, defacing a historical marker such as both of Emmett Till’s shows the opposition that honoring the person is a good thing.

Frankly, I think we as a country have done a terrible job recognizing important people and events. Confederate monuments are overly honored due to the rush to throw them up during Segregation and opposing the Civil Rights Movement.

We should do a better job today creating monuments to abolitionists, slave rebellions, and victims of Jim Crow lynchings. People should be able to recognize Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner, and Emmett Till even better than they recognize the faces of traitorous generals and presidents like Lee and Davis.

TED Talk: Clay Shirky: How cellphones, Twitter, Facebook can make history

The tumult in Iran is huge news of late. As a Baha’i, news of the persecution of Baha’s in Iran has stepped up because of the Internet. Stories crossed the ocean through email. News agencies almost never picked up these stories. As fast as the Iran government could shut down CNN and NYT and BBC reporters, the same government cannot seem to quell dozens who don’t have press credentials or passports to revoke from sharing the message. So the idea of several thousand sharing a similar message evading the same government doesn’t seem all the surprising to me.

[The Iran unrest] is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media. This is it. The big one.

Calling this unrest a revolution seems premature. Still, all this information making it overseas is interesting to watch.

Little Changes

Flipping channels, I ran across Deep Impact during a speech given by the president (played by Morgan Freeman).

The black president didn’t amaze me. Hollywood figured out how to portray them a decade before the US figured out how to elect one.

What amazed me is that with all the really cool forward looking technology for the time, instructions for how to communicate the evacuation was sent by fax to news agencies. Yeah, it wasn’t emailed. The White House didn’t post it on a web site. No mention of Facebook. 😀

Is NASA powering landing craft with nuclear drives?

At least since this movie aired we have implemented programs to discover both the large and medium objects capable of regional to global catastrophes.

We still need a plan to do something about the ones we anticipate will hit us. Or how about a plan to save our legacies? (The children, art, history)

Relative Truth

Found an interesting comment on an article the state of Georgia observing the Confederate Memorial Day….

The truth of history means very little to those who are dead set against learning anything from it. No matter what the history books used in our public school system say, most will never believe anything other than their own opinion about the Civil War. History revisionist are the celebs of the day. As long as people like Rev. Wright, and David Duke exist, history’s truth will be filtered through lies and distortions. Few observe Confederate Memorial Day: UGA to display original constitution; state offices closed

Truth may very well be completely relative. Back during the US Presidential election, I ran across an interesting article in the Washington Post discussing research John Bullock did about the effects of misinformation and idealogical bias ties. I used to think it had to do with a handful of people stuck in their green, second ammendment, pro-life, pro-choice, capitalist, regulation views. My favorite pasttime in college was assuming positions contrary to others even when I agree with the others.

I doubt the effect solely affects conservatives as was proposed in the article. More likely everyone has some blindspots in determing truth from myth or fiction kind of like optical illusions. (Yes, even myself.) We have to choose which information to believe any time we interact with information. Much of the rules in philosophy and science are built around combatting the biases we have.

Rather than force ideas on others, I think we should be teaching children from an early age to recognize when others and most especially themselves are operating under a bias. Its the only way to find detachment.

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?

Less Is More

Mashable has an interesting article about why Twitter persists despite frequent performance issues: “Less is more. Simplicity is power.” By providing little more than an API, upon which numerous others have built tools, it doesn’t so directly compete with other services.

I wonder if perhaps this is the right approach for a learning system? One size no longer fits all. Blackboard Vista is chock full of dozenss of tools and hundreds of settings. This made their products a behemoth to administrate. A lighter system where only the tools people wish to use could help.

On the flip side, a project like GeorgiaVIEW serves thousands of faculty members. All the tools in Blackboard Vista are not enough to satisfy all of the faculty. They want us to integrate with dozens of third party tools, namely the one which will make their class work. An easy API to write against would ultimately mean we would have more tools than we struggle to administrate today.

I guess this is my rejection of the Personal Learning Environment. As great as it is for students and the faculty, the IT who have to support them will fail to support them.

Step Back and Take a Deep Breath

Chris Hambly is asking for thoughts and reflections on Blackboard.

I deal with Blackboard nearly daily. We have one of the largest implementations of Vista. A choice to migrate to something else would affect around 180,000 people. So that choice will be very carefully maide. Of course, the longer we stay, the larger we grow and more difficult moving becomes. Unfortunately, that makes a careful choice more difficult to make.

I feel Blackboard is a publicly traded corporation. Therefore, many of its decisions are to get people with budgetary power to spend that money on Blackboard products. Yes, there are problems with Blackboard. From the looking I’ve done, people have problems with all of the equivalent products out there. Because the problems are more unfamiliar, its difficult to say whether changing would improve our situation.

The patent thing made me disappointed not angry. Less of the disappointment was directed at Blackboard, because given the state of affairs of its filing, I would have tried to get the patent as well. My most severe disappointment was to the United States Patent and Trademark Office for approving it. Perhaps this is because I’ve seen a history of the USPTO approving software patents which do not make sense. I am hopeful the USPTO can move to improve this.

Bicentennial for the Abolition of Slave Trade to US Tomorrow

An Even Better Reason to Celebrate has a nice longer version of this quote from a NYT OpEd piece on tomorrow being the bicentennial for the ablution of slave trade to the United States.

WE Americans live in a society awash in historical celebrations. The last few years have witnessed commemorations of the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase (2003) and the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II (2005). Looming on the horizon are the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth (2009) and the sesquicentennial of the outbreak of the Civil War (2011). But one significant milestone has gone strangely unnoticed: the 200th anniversary of Jan. 1, 1808, when the importation of slaves into the United States was prohibited. Forgotten Step Toward Freedom – New York Times

Please read this article. It mentions the British celebrated their abolition of slave trade last year. Also, the lack of celebration may be due to the distinction here in the US between the end of importing of slaves vs the end of slavery. I found it a fascinating and well written article. Eric Foner has a several books on United States history between the American Revolution and the Civil War. I'll have to pick up some of them? I'm already 83 books behind reading everything I own.

Read and post comments | Send to a friend

Bicentennial for the Abolition of Slave Trade to US Tomorrow

An Even Better Reason to Celebrate has a nice longer version of this quote from a NYT OpEd piece on tomorrow being the bicentennial for the ablution of slave trade to the United States.

WE Americans live in a society awash in historical celebrations. The last few years have witnessed commemorations of the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase (2003) and the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II (2005). Looming on the horizon are the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth (2009) and the sesquicentennial of the outbreak of the Civil War (2011). But one significant milestone has gone strangely unnoticed: the 200th anniversary of Jan. 1, 1808, when the importation of slaves into the United States was prohibited. Forgotten Step Toward Freedom – New York Times

Please read this article. It mentions the British celebrated their abolition of slave trade last year. Also, the lack of celebration may be due to the distinction here in the US between the end of importing of slaves vs the end of slavery. I found it a fascinating and well written article. Eric Foner has a several books on United States history between the American Revolution and the Civil War. I’ll have to pick up some of them? I’m already 83 books behind reading everything I own.

Are Books the Only Way to Learn?

Is the Internet really a bad invention? According to Doris Lessing, yes.

We are in a fragmenting culture, where our certainties of even a few decades ago are questioned and where it is common for young men and women, who have had years of education, to know nothing of the world, to have read nothing, knowing only some speciality or other, for instance, computers.

What has happened to us is an amazing invention – computers and the internet and TV. It is a revolution. This is not the first revolution the human race has dealt with. The printing revolution, which did not take place in a matter of a few decades, but took much longer, transformed our minds and ways of thinking. A foolhardy lot, we accepted it all, as we always do, never asked: “What is going to happen to us now, with this invention of print?” In the same way, we never thought to ask, “How will our lives, our way of thinking, be changed by the internet, which has seduced a whole generation with its inanities so that even quite reasonable people will confess that, once they are hooked, it is hard to cut free, and they may find a whole day has passed in blogging etc?”

Very recently, anyone even mildly educated would respect learning, education and our great store of literature. Of course we all know that when this happy state was with us, people would pretend to read, would pretend respect for learning. But it is on record that working men and women longed for books, evidenced by the founding of working-men’s libraries, institutes, and the colleges of the 18th and 19th centuries. Reading, books, used to be part of a general education. Older people, talking to young ones, must understand just how much of an education reading was, because the young ones know so much less.

We all know this sad story. But we do not know the end of it. We think of the old adage, “Reading maketh a full man” – reading makes a woman and a man full of information, of history, of all kinds of knowledge. A hunger for books

Certainly I understand the perspective. We take the astounding availability of knowledge for granted. Instead of stuffing our brains with more and more information, we are content to waste our time online. I think creating a love of life long learning should be the goal.

Books are great. I love to read. Reading is important, yes. I also love to talk to others about what I’ve been reading. The prevalence of books created the Intellectual Movement in which people published books to discuss ideas. Except for Divine knowledge, ideas are refined through challenging weaknesses or problems. The printing press made it easier for people to publish books and get these ideas to the masses so more can read them and respond by publishing their own books. The Internet and especially blogging has improved the response latency from day to years to minutes.

Collaborative philosophical inquiry helps kids at an early age. These skills serve them well even into high school. This strikes me as similar to how the Intellectual Movement worked. Should this be adopted more broadly, then maybe our kids won’t embarrass Doris?