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June 5, 2016

Muhammed Ali

I was a fourteen year old, suburban white boy with zero interest in sports or boxing when Muhammed Ali beat Sonny Liston. But, Cassius Clay, as he was named then, knowingly defied every stereotype his culture tried to confine him to, suffered for his insistence on being more than his culture would tolerate, and thereby gave us a model of bravery that we have yet to live up to.

It began with his transcendence as an athlete. Here he is at 35 in an exhibition match against Michael Dokes, with his beautiful face — as he’d be the first to acknowledge — still unmarred by punches.

Muhammed Ali ‘s story will be told for generations. The generations will be better for it.

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May 30, 2016

Some iconic dream imagery

I know I am 27 million views late to the party, but this Coldplay video has imagery that reminds me of dreams that I have had since childhood.

In my dream, the sky is a reflection of the Earth. You look up and see the Earth as seen from space. I can neither explain its meaning nor convey the awe it engenders in me. For what it’s worth, the dream feels Jungian to me, not symbolic.

In any case, this music video is pretty great.

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May 29, 2016

Hillary: Getting sh*t done

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May 26, 2016

Happy Birthday, DailyKos

DailyKos is fourteen years old today. In honor of this, they’re pointing at their birth photo.

It’s changed a lot in 14 years, but hasn’t swerved from its core principles: News and ideas for Democrats, in an open, conversational forum, with a strong commitment to building a community and getting shit done.

DailyKos is absolutely one of my go-to sites. Here’s some of what I like about it:

It is open about its commitment to Democratic values, but it is also fact based. For example, if an economic report isn’t where we’d like, DailyKos doesn’t try to put a happy face on it. It instead tries to figure out what’s going wrong and how it can be addressed. If this means criticizing Democrats all the way up to President Obama, they do it.

DailyKos has remained true to the vision of blogging as a way of democratizing voice. While the site has an excellent staff of paid writers — each of whom has her or his own voice — there are also thousands of bloggers at the site. The site has community-based ways of featuring them on the front page. This gives a real sense that site is ours.

Humor is part of the daily life of DailyKos.

Markos keeps his eye on the ball. The site is about helping Democrats win in order to advance progressive values. In March Markos decided that it’s time for the site to turn away from Bernie supporters doing the Republicans’ job for them by attacking Hillary in nasty, irrational ways. Supporting Bernie is fine. Open criticism of Hillary is fine. More than fine. We need to be alert to her limitations as well as to the ways in which Trump will attack her. But name-calling, personal attacks, or conspiracy theories about Vince Foster at this point will not help the progressive cause. As Markos says, there are plenty of other places on the Web for that sort of thing. So, you’ll still find people at the site fervently backing Bernie, and plenty of criticism and concern about Hillary. But not the sort of angry jeremiad that tears us apart.

The site does not get lost in the presidential horse race. It focuses also on state and local elections.

DailyKos is a fascinating hybrid of commitment and evidence-based dialogue. Here’s looking to many more years of it.

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May 19, 2016

Working in a co-working space

I’m in Talent Garden‘s largest branch, which is also its headquarters, in Milan. It’s a ridiculously large co-working space for startups, with an emphasis on openness. I’m enjoying sitting at a table with a few other people, none of whom I know and all of whom are speaking Italian.

I like co-working spaces enough that if I were looking for a place to work outside of my house, I’d consider joining one. It’s that or the local library. It depends on whether you find being around the young and the digital to be distracting, energizing, or both.

I find it energizing. Nevertheless, the segregation of the young from the old is a cultural and business loss.

talent garden open work space

Talent Garden ameliorates this by renting space to a handful of established companies (IBM, Cisco, and a bank, here in Milan) to provide mentoring, and so the old companies can get behind startups they find interesting. It’s a good model, although since I’m just here for the afternoon, I don’t know how much actual mingling occurs. Still, it’s a good idea.

I also like that Talent Garden explicitly tries to build community among its users. Not waving-in-the-hall community, but a community of shared space, shared events, and shared ideas. The American co-working space I’m most familiar with has public areas but assumes startups want to work in rooms with closed, solid doors. An open floor plan helps a startup culture to grow, which is perhaps more needed in Italy than in the US. Nevertheless, you can’t have too much community. Well, you can, but that’s easier to remediate than its opposite. (For a US shared space dedicated to building community, check out the treasured Civic Hall in NYC.)

(Note: Unlike the co-working space I’m most familiar with, TG does not provide a free, well-stocked kitchen. Just as well. Free kitchens cause my metabolism to think its faster than it is.)

 


 

I’m in Italy to participate in an Aspen Institute event in Venice over the weekend (poor poor me). I stopped in Milan to give a talk, which I internally have titled “Is the Internet Disappointed in Us?” It’s actually a monolog — no slides, no notes — about why my cohort thought the success of the Internet was inevitable, and why I am still optimistic about the Net. If you’re interested in having me in to speak with your group, let me know. Yeah, a plug.

And while I’m plugging, here’s some disclosure: Talent Garden is the venue for this talk, but no one is paying me for it.

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May 17, 2016

When the transgender bathroom debate will end

It’ll end when the Republicans have this conversation with their daughters:

“You see, precious, that’s really a woman who’s just pretending to be a man because, well, she’s what we call a ‘pervert.’ No, dear, she can’t use the men’s room because we passed a law to make sure that lady perverts have to use the lady’s room. Yes, dear, we also made a law that the male perverts have to use the men’s room dressed as ladies. Yes, dear, the lady perverts who look like men actually are lady homosexuals — why aren’t you precocious! — who lust after little girls, just like we’ve told you, but, well, …you won’t understand it when you grow up either.”

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May 9, 2016

Reddit on my LARB review

There’s a small but interesting discussion at the philosophy subreddit of my review of Michael Lynch’s The Internet of Us.

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May 4, 2016

Too slow, Treyarch

I am far from the first person to notice this, but it really pisses me off.

Treyarch, the creators of Call of Duty, in the latest version let’s us decide to play as a woman. Other games have been doing this for a long time. So, have half a yay, Treyarch. Nevertheless, your player’s gender is not reflected in the script. There’s an argument I don’t want to have about whether this makes sense; it really just comes down to bucks.

But what really pisses me, and many other people, off is this character choice screen:

character model screen

This was an incredibly expensive game to design. The graphics are awesome, the sets are amazingly detailed. In single-player campaign mode, it’s a full length action movie—albeit not a very good one—and is budgeted like one.

But Treyarch couldn’t be bothered to spend $2.50 more to add some non-white faces to the roster. Really?

Here’s a fairly random screen shot I picked up from the Web.

typical scene

Keep in mind that this is about one sixth the resolution you get on a gaming PC. Treyarch can add intense detail to a gun or piece of shrapnel but can’t be troubled to design a few faces that aren’t white?

We’ve got a word for people who assume that the white race is the “real” race.

Not ok, Treyarch.

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April 28, 2016

Preferred applicants will have four decades of experience

Why do we never see job offerings that specify that applicants should have at least forty years of experience? Thirty years? Twenty years?

I understand that people can be qualified for a job with far less experience than one might think. We’ve all met people like that, damn them. But that’s why we couch some qualifications under the rubric “preferred.” So, do we think that having a lifetime of experience in a field is never preferred? Or even just a lifetime of experience of living and working?

(PS: If you hear of such a job in the Boston area, you know how to reach me.)

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April 22, 2016

Isaac Newton, Number One Ok Smart Guy

Until close to Newton’s time, the stars had been accepted as a fixed background to the motions of the Earth and the rest of the solar system. The idea developed that they might be bodies like our sun, but even through a telescope they still looked like luminous points, revealing nothing of their size. Newton found a way to tackle this problem (System 596). He noted that a prominent (first magnitude) star looked about as bright as Saturn. He knew how far away Saturn is; and also knew that we see Saturn by the sunlight that it scatters back towards us. Given that the intensity of light from a source falls off as the inverse square of the distance, he could calculate how far away a star like our sun would have to be to look as bright by direct radiation as Saturn does by reflected light. His result, expressed in modern terms, was about ten lightyears, which is absolutely of the right order of magnitude.”

A.P. French, “”Isaac Newton, Explorer of the Real World,” pp. 50-77, in Stayer, Marcia Sweet, ed., Newton’s Dream. Montreal, CA: MQUP, 1988.

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