Joho the Blog » 2002 » May

May 31, 2002

Tom Peters’ Interview From the

Tom Peters’ Interview

From the Land of Self-Promotion comes this bulletin: Tom Peters’ site is featuring an interview with me.

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The Death and Resurrection of

The Death and Resurrection of CBDTPA

J. Thomas Vincent has sent me an email in response to my reporting on scuttlebutt that Sen. Hollings’ CBDTPA bill won’t pass during this session:

…I’ll go so far as to say that is the conventional wisdom around DC. Leahy doesn’t like it and as long as he is unhappy it’s dead because the bill hits his jurisdiction. I do completely agree though that the pressure needs to be kept up, for while this year and perhaps not even the next Congress will CBDTPA pass. After ’04 regardless of what party wins that will be the session where the battle will really get ugly. That’s why the organization efforts online need to get up and running now, to have a coherent message to politicians well before that cycle. (Not to mention efforts like GeekPAC)

So, we shouldn’t drink so much champagne that we fall asleep while the issue rises from the dead. It ain’t going away so soon.

(GeekPAC is an advocacy group started by Doc Searls and Jeff Gerhardt of The Linux Show.)

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My Italian Adventure Perhaps you

My Italian Adventure

Perhaps you heard me on Italian TV yesterday, although I doubt it. The producer of the show said that it’s the “Nightline” of Italian TV, on RAI, the national network. When he called at 6:30AM, he said that they were doing a show on the ceremonies marking the removal of the debris that was once the World Trade Center and they wanted someone to comment on the role the Internet played on 9/11. This is something I’d talked about on U.S. National Public Radio. “Sure,” I said.

“I’ll ask you about how the Internet allowed the world to tell itself its stories,” the producer said.

“Excellent,” I replied with the confidence of someone about to make a fool of himself.

So, a few minutes before air time, the phone rang and the translator introduced herself. “The first question,” she said, “will begin with the host saying that the events of 9/11 have changed the world and affected each of us. In such a time, we think about what it means to live in a world together. We’re talking with David Weinberger, an American philosopher and writer” – Danger! Danger! – “Tell me, Dr. Weinberger, about your reaction to the ceremony and what we learn from 9/11. What are our feelings?”

“I didn’t see the ceremony. I’m an Internet guy. You don’t want to ask me that question,” I replied. Worse, from the question, it seemed I was the first guest. Why would they put the Internet guy on first to provide a general, non-Net comment about 9/11? Thank goodness I had had a chance to warn them off that question!

Seconds later, the interpreter asked me the first on-air question. Except for taking out the part about the ceremony, it was exactly the same. With dead air looming, I tried to come up with an answer to “What do we learn from 9/11? What are our feelings?”

I felt the weight of my country’s honor descend on me. Speaking for all Americans, nay, for all sentient creatures in the universe, I babbled about being sad. And then I forgot that I was required by international treaty to close by saying something uplifting about courage and instead blurted out: “And fear. For all of our economic wealth and all of our science, there is no protection.”

Undoubtedly sensing that he had a guest who too thick even to get the platitudes right, the host asked a question about the role of the Internet in the new world. “Connections,” I said, wiping frothy spittle from my lips, “The children are connected. Connections. Hope. Children. Links. The connectedness of connection. For the children. Connectannectannectannecta…” The show switched to a commercial, an act of desperation since I think RAI doesn’t run commercials.

Look for my upcoming appearance on the Bulgarian version of 60 Minutes explaining the meaning of life, what Angelina Jolie sees in Billy Bob Thornton and exactly how Nancy Reagan feels about her Ronnie. For I am: The Internet Guy

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May 30, 2002

See you on Friday I’m

See you on Friday

I’m on the road, speaking to a Customer Support conference in Arizona, and won’t be blogging today. (Hint: The real purpose of this placeholder message is to see if Blogger is working yet. If you’re reading this, then it is. Yes, it is! Thanks, Ev.)

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May 29, 2002

Forgiveness Again AKMA is continuing

Forgiveness Again

AKMA is continuing his thoughts on forgiveness, beautiful in their clarity and in the warmth of the heart pumping the oxygen to his remarkable brain.

I hesitate to react in “print” for a couple of reasons (i.e., I am not going to let those reasons stop me). First, my reaction has to do with the way AKMA’s piece sounds the differences between Judaism and Christianity, yet as a non-observant Jew I lack the standing to reply for My People. Second, I love what AKMA is writing and don’t want to sound quarrelsome. I want to point out differences, not argue that one way is better than the other; there are lots of ways to G-d and I would be truly delighted to live in a community that lived up to AKMA’s vision of forgiveness.

Nevertheless, I’m fascinated by the way AKMA’s explanation doesn’t quite capture my sense of forgiveness. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s somewhere in this passage:

David’s right to note a divergence here between “Jewish” and “Christian” sensibilities, but it goes deeper than that too. Many Christians feel a strong attraction to an ethic that emphasizes putting beliefs into action, walking the walk, whereas another large body of Christians recoil in horror from what they regard as works-righteousness, the notion that you can earn God’s favor by doing the right stuff.

AKMA is reacting to my asking where restitution fits into the scheme. Both alternatives he raises make an assumption that I don’t share. The reason to make restitution – which, as AKMA rightly points out does not mean handing someone a wad of cash – isn’t necessarily to put beliefs into actions or to earn God’s favor. In my understanding, it’s neither belief- nor G-d-focused. You make restitution because doing something wrong fractures the world and you need to try to make it whole. You’re not salving your conscience and you’re not currying favor. You are repairing the damage you did as best you can. The holiest Jews aren’t those with the purest beliefs and purest relationship to G-d. They aren’t saints. They are the righteous ones who do well to humans and G-d. The reason to be righteous in the world is not to put beliefs into action or to make G-d like you but because, well, that’s what’s right and it’s what we have been commanded to do.

Back to the caveats: this isn’t an argument. A world filled with holy Christians, holy Jews, holy Muslims, holy Buddhists, holy Hindus and holy the Rest would be a damn fine place to live, a whole lot better than where we are now. After all, who wouldn’t rejoice at having AKMA and Margaret move in next door?

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Tinseltown Antics Kevin Marks passes

Tinseltown Antics

Kevin Marks passes along a clever Flash on the Electronic Frontier Foundation site that parodies the Mickey Mouse Glee Club while propagandizing against Sen. Hollings’ evil CBDTPA bill.

I was relieved to hear from someone who spoke with the confidence of the insider (but not necessarily with the insider’s knowledge) that the CBDTPA is “DOA” because the Judiciary Committee feels slighted by Hollings. I have no idea if that’s true and it in no way should stop you from protesting loudly and often against this profoundly stupid and dangerous bill.

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May 28, 2002

AKMA on Forgiveness AKMA has

AKMA on Forgiveness

AKMA has burst onto the Daypop Top 40 with his blog entry on Forgiveness. And deservedly so. Although I don’t hold grudges (generally … you know who you are, you dirty bastards), it took an embarrassing number of years for me to get over the idea that forgiveness was an irrational will-to-forget and to see that it was the way we humans, imperfect by nature, can manage to live together. When AKMA writes that forgiveness “may be the only way to take an offense with adequate seriousness,” I have one of those Getting It moments. “Forgiving wrongs requires us to take them utterly seriously as injuries to one another and to the relationships of which we form a part…” Beautiful.

One thing struck me as peculiar, though. AKMA writes:

Forgiving entails recognizing a wrong, looking at it clearly and honestly, assessing responsibility for it, and resolving not to permit that wrong to determine our lives from thence forward.

Elsewhere AKMA says that forgivness must include “a degree of resolution to avoid repeating my offense, and my effort to live out a life characterized by the manifest embrace of a better way forward.” The one thing missing from AKMA’s article is the idea of restitution. My religion, Judaism, as I understand it (i.e., not at all) puts particular stress on making whole what one has ruptured through one’s bad behavior. Yes, you resolve not to do it again, and yes, you don’t let that behavior rend the fabric of the relationship. But you also run out to the store immediately and buy Margaret some more damn pepper.

Now, obviously AKMA doesn’t need me to tell him that. He was probably camping on the doorstep of the Quickie Mart to be first on line for pepper. Is restitution too obvious an idea to have surfaced in AKMA’s essay? Or does the difference in emphasis indicate a deeper difference in our religions? I’m inclined toward the former since I feel an odd social responsibility to mark the differences between Judaism and Christianity so that the hyphen in “Judeo-Christian” catches in the throat. For example, Judaism tends to be less of a religion of beliefs and faith than Christianity is…

Gentlemen, start your generalizations!


Quite an amazing blogthread developing on forgiveness! AKMA followed up his post with another wallop, this on what forgiveness does to time: “forgiveness involves a transition from a problematic past to a more hopeful future…” which, he notes, means constructing (or finding) a narrative. And this should lead us to reflect on the way in which all social relationships are about time often in the form of narratives: “You are my friend for life” includes you in a particular narrative whereas “You’re just a social acquaintance” tells a different story.

Also in the blogthread is the eloquent Steve Yost, a guy I’ve known in the real world for a couple of years, and although I have the highest regard for him as a person of integrity and as a software master, his blog is showing me something even more that I hadn’t met in him in the real world. Halley and Marek have also jumped in, but we’ve grown to expect Excellence in Blogging from them already…

Nah, I’m not going to let them off the hook that easily. Halley tries to get comfortable in forgiveness’ embrace when writing about her recently passed father. I must say that her writing over the past couple of days has really been outstanding. See for yourself. And Marek confronts himself and his feelings for his father and how that refracts all of his world — just like the rest of us, Marek, just like the rest of us — with the confusion that marks honesty about what’s most difficult. What he writes is so personal that I don’t feel like I have right to say anything except: See for yourself.

Thank you, Steve, Halley and Marek. And thank you, AKMA. Isn’t this what teaching is about? Creating occasions for learning?

(Forgive my pompousness. It’s how my emotions come out in public.)

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May 27, 2002

The Virtue of Indoors I

The Virtue of Indoors

I lied in yesterday’s blog. I said that I was worshipping nature from indoors. The indoors part was true. The worshipping wasn’t.

I like nature ok. Some of my favorite fruits come from nature. Also there are times when a fresh breeze will redirect the bus fumes away from my house towards my neighbor’s. Thank you. On the other hand, nature is the source of: carcinogenic sun rays, humidity, filling-freezing cold, mosquitos, fatal lightning attacks, tornadoes, droughts, chiggers, the microscopic bugs that infest every mattress, rabies, slime, eggplants, temperatures in excess of 75, quicksand, banana peels, Mothra, night-long darkness, asteroids, tape worms, monkeys’ red butts, rain, poison ivy, dog crap, needlessly pointy gravel, earthquakes and a fish floating belly up with its eyes eaten out. That’s just plain disgusting. I could go on and on. (The situation is actually much worse than I’m letting on because children may be reading this.)

And that’s why we invented the indoors. In fact, I’m writing this from indoors right now! Let me try to describe it. I’m able to adjust the temperature to one that is comfortable for our species, and the indoors automatically keeps itself at that temperature no matter what type of hissy fit Nature throws. And through the miracle of glass, a sort of hardened air — I’m not making this up! — we are able to see what is going on outside while the animals that would prey on us are kept away. This beats climbing a tree and looking down because some of the nastier animals can fly. And I’ve had doors installed so that only I and my family can enter our sanctuary without having to ask permission first. Plus I can organize my things exactly as I want and can be confident that when I return, they won’t have blown away, gotten wet, or have been gnawed by beasts.

It’s really quite remarkable and difficult to describe to those who haven’t experienced it. Try to find the next time Dean Kamen is giving a talk since I’m pretty sure he invented it.

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May 26, 2002

A title for a book

A title for a book I have no intention of writing but that pretty much sums me up

“Worshipping Nature from Indoors”

[We're in the Berkshires for Memorial Day, an important American holiday where we take the time to recall something or other.]

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May 25, 2002

MiscLinks Marek recommends ResultsUSA, a

MiscLinks

Marek recommends ResultsUSA, a site that works on ending world hunger.


The ever-vigilant Chip recommends Eric Alterman’s big-J-ish blog. Alterman writes for The Nation as well as for just about any other journal that hasn’t completely hocked its soul.


Gary Unblinking Stock sends us back to our favorite comic strip, mnftiu, to discover that there’s going to be a “Get Your War On” book. All of the proceeds will go to landmine relief efforts in Afghanistan.

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