Joho the BlogOctober 2005 - Page 3 of 9 - Joho the Blog

October 25, 2005

Ethan on Africans on PopTech

Ethan does a superb job blogging and reflecting on a presentation at PopTech by ten young African innovators the conference — to its great credit — brought to the conference. What a great idea!

Ethan live-blogged the whole conference. Fantastic coverage. And IT Conversations streamed it and will make the sessions available as podcasts. (I skipped the conference this year because I need to work on my book. But from all accounts, it seems to have been as thought-provoking and eclectic as ever.) [Tags: ]


Rosa Parks

My children can’t imagine what it was like before Rosa Parks. They are appalled when we tell them.

I mean that as a tribute to her.

The story for which Rosa Parks is famous is not as I was taught it.

I was five when she refused to move out of the whites-only seats at the front of the bus. I was told that she was a humble Black woman who, after a hard day of work, was too tired to get up. In fact, she was a committed civil rights worker, a secretary in the Montgomery office of the NAACP where she recorded reports of racial discrimination and interviewed African-Americans with legal complaints. (I in fact was taught she was a white family’s maid. Did those telling the story just assume that that’s what black women do?)

It’s a better story the first way, but why?

The mythic version is so powerful because of what it doesn’t say. Obviously, the point wasn’t that she was tired, that she collapsed in the seat and was physically unable to stand up. Presumably she was tired every day. The point of the myth is exactly that this day was like every other except for what happened in Rosa Parks’ heart. On that day like any other, a woman like any other rose above the accepted condition. Like the first photo of the whole earth seen from space, Parks’ refusal to change seats transformed our perspective. What had been presented as an inevitable way of the world Parks revealed as a fragile system with which — suddenly — one did not have to comply. The heroism of non-compliance was, Rosa Parks showed, available to everyone.

That’s why the story works better the more “ordinary” the hero is.

We like stories of ordinary heroes because they tell us heroism is within our grasp as well. (Why we aren’t instead shamed by their implicit denunciation of our own failures to be heroic is beyond me.) But, while stories of the humble becoming heroes may appeal to us, a life like Parks’ is all the more admirable: She didn’t postpone heroism, waiting for the moment to happen to her. She became a worker for civil rights in a time and place where that took daily heroism.

Then, on December 1, 1955, she was tired of complying with a system that degraded her, so she came to a full stop, not knowing the consequences. She demanded the system either acknowledge her dignity or demonstrate its full depravity. It takes a genuine faith in human goodness to think that we will not let a system stand once its corrupt nature has been exposed.

I would be happy to celebrate Rosa Parks Day every December 1. We Americans would be better for explicitly embracing her true story as a mythic expression of our values. [Tags:]


October 24, 2005

JournoBlinkers driving me bonkers

Cathy Young, a contributing editor to Reason magazine, in her column today in the Boston Globe goes on about how irresponsible bloggers got the facts wrong when John Henry Hinrichs killed himself, whipping up terrorist hysteria and undoubtedly making matters even worse for Hinrich’s family.

Let’s for now assume that Young is right that the bloggers saying there’s a coverup are wrong. (She cites a Wall Street Journal article and a Congressperson as her sources.) So, she’s found an example of bloggers getting something wrong. What exactly are we supposed to conclude from that? After all, The New York Times has been known to get some things wrong, whipping up terrorist hysteria. There’s a name for the fallacy Young’s column commits: Hasty Generalization.

What’s the name of your magazine again, Cathy? [Tags: ]


Physical metadata photos

Ah, flickr! How much do we love thee! [Thanks to Ben Hyde for the link.] [Tags: ]

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Questions for Joshua Schachter

Joshua “” Schachter is going to be my guest at Tuesday night’s “Web of Ideas” at the BerkmanCenter — which, by the way, is open to the public. I’m going to interview him and then we’ll have open discussion.

So, what do you think I should ask him?

And, do you wanna come? If so, here’s a map. It’s 6:00-7:30 on Tuesday. And, yes, we’ll try to get it up as a podcast, but then you’ll miss out on the free pizza. [Tags: ]


October 23, 2005

Alien electrical outlets

Our electrician, Walter Nowicki (yeah yeah, he should get a wiki, haha) replaced an old plug and thought I might want to blog about it. He’s right.

The house is about 100 years old. Walter guesses the plug might be 60 years old…

old electrical plug



Great ad

This ad made me laugh. Overall, it’s a terrific piece of work. (Maybe everyone has seen it. TiVo has taken me out of the advertosphere.) [Tags: ]


Joho is back!

I’ve been off the air for four days. Four! I believe that’s four times the maximum interval since I started blogging for real in 2001.

I’ve been through the upgrade from hell, trying to move from Movable Type 3.11 to 3.2. In fact, it’s not quite done yet: The existing comments are not yet back online, although any comments you leave now will stay; the old ones should be back in a day or two. Sorry!

Six Apart (the Movable Type folks) has been incredibly helpful; they’ve been through more hell than me on this one. The main issue was that I’ve been using BerkeleyDB as my database instead of mySQL, and the Berkeley database dump apparently was corrupted. So, this isn’t your typical upgrade. Apparently I’m taking the cake for the hardest upgrade ever. Whoopee?


October 19, 2005

Deaths in custody

The best thing we have going for us is our American belief that no one is above the law. That’s why this report by Human Rights First, covered by Reuters, is so disturbing. It reads like a script for a particularly grim episode of The Sopranos.

Deaths of prisoners in our care are troubling, even if inevitable. A failure to take responsibility is a worse betrayal of what we say we stand for.

Every time we act like we’re above the law and above common decency, we make our country less safe. [Tags: ]

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October 18, 2005

My dinner with Elvis Costello and Diana Krall

Well, they were at the next table. Diana’s back — after two hours of staring, I feel we’re now on a first-name basis — was to me, but I had a full view of Elvis about five feet away.

I am happy to report that he seems to be a well-mannered young man.

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