Time For A Conversation

A good friend writes on Facebook:

Now is not the time, but sometime soon, while the searing memories are still fresh, we must have a candid conversation about how we all will live in the new world climate change is bringing to us. After a disaster, there is a defiant urge to remake what was lost, brick for brick and beam for beam. But the real challenge before us will be not to remake what was, but to make something different. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew.

Stilt Houses
By Flickr user dpu-ucl

I think he’s right . . . and I believe there is a growing consensus that it is time to have a national (or global) conversation about climate change and how to live with it. This conversation would not simply be an argument over what causes it or whether it is occurring. Neither would it be simply about how to stop, or slow it.

It would be about what we should do — how should we live, how can we adapt, how can we mitigate?

This is not a technical conversation, but a political (small p) conversation. That is, it is rooted in what we hold valuable. We have mistaken the problem as something that experts can handle, and because all the answers really cause us to face tensions between things held valuable, we slide into partisan rancor. It’s time to hold a conversation on that level, rooted in our concerns and aspirations.

There is a very interesting piece by Andrew J. Hoffman in the latest Stanford Social Innovation Review on this topic — sorry to say, it may be behind a paywall.

Photo credit: Flickr user dpu-ucl

Idiomatic Pet Peeves

I can’t seem to help myself. I get my dander up when confronted by improper use of idiomatic English (or even just plain, old correct English) expressions by people who ought to know better.

A few on my mind lately include:

  • One does not “home in on” something. One “hones in on” it. [UPDATE: I have learned this is not exactly right. Both are correct. See comments below.]
  • One does not “take a different tact.” One “takes a different tack.”
  • “Alumni” is a plural word, and its singular is not “alum.” Someone is neither “an alumni” nor “an alum” of an institution. One is an alumnus (male) or an alumna (female). When gender is in doubt, the masculine is used. No, that’s not sexist, it’s grammar.

Whew! Glad I got that off my chest!

What are your pet grammar peeves? Add them in the comments.

Regrets Upon Death

Bronnie Ware is a singer and writer from Australia. For a number of years, she worked in palliative care (that is, attending to the dying). Out of that experience, she has written a book called The Top Five Regrets Of The Dying (affiliate link).

Photo by andronicusmax (Flickr)

As the year closes, and as we sweep away the past and look to the blank slate of the future, many of us are making “resolutions” or at the least setting their intentions. Bonnie’s list provides some insight as to what enduring goals might look like.

The top five regrets of the dying:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

I’m thinking about these ideas as I formulate my own set of intentions for 2012.

Call To Stop Child Sex Trafficking At The Super Bowl [UPDATED]

You might be surprised to know the the Super Bowl is one of the largest events to spur demand for the sexual exploitation of children every year. According to change.org:

Texas Attorney General Abbott is taking a stand and has prepared a task force to identify and respond to traffickers who plan to sell children at the Super Bowl.  However, it is not enough to expect law enforcement and victim advocates to bear the entire burden of responding to this issue, which is expected to include many victims.  In support of the efforts of the task force, we are requesting the Super Bowl Host Committee embrace a proactive approach with community members by endorsing the “I’m Not buying It” campaign, which would raise awareness and deter the buying of children during the Super Bowl.

You can help by signing the change.org petition, or directly supporting the Traffick911 “I’m Not Buying It” campaign.

Watch this video to learn more:

Natalie Grant and Tenth Avenue North PSA for Traffick 911 from Nate Bernard on Vimeo.

[UPDATE: I initially, erroneously, said the Super Bowl was “the single largest event.” Thank you to my frien Tim Burgess for pointing out my error.]

Bad News From The Skies

I recently learned something that I simply refuse to believe.

You see, an article recently made it clear to me that I have had my zodiac sign wrong since I discovered horoscopes. It turns out that the world has shifted since the ancient Babylonians originally parsed out the skies into the zodiac, and whereas I used to be a Leo, I am now a Cancer.

Mufasa by Carson

Let me hasten to say that I don’t believe astrology. Not in the slightest. However, I read seven online horoscopes every morning. Even though I am not superstitious.

Why do I do that? Because I know that if I read enough of the things, I will come upon a positive prediction. I use them as little motivational tools — someone saying, “Hey, Brad, you’re going to have a good day today.”

I really am a creature of habit, and so I refuse to start reading the Cancer horoscope just because that’s what is correct. I am going to stick with good ol’ Leo, because that’s what I know and love.

Want to know what the real cutoff dates for the various signs are? Here you go:

Capricorn: Jan. 20-Feb. 16.
Aquarius: Feb. 16-March 11.
Pisces: March 11-April 18.
Aries: April 18-May 13.
Taurus: May 13-June 21.
Gemini: June 21-July 20.
Cancer: July 20-Aug. 10.
Leo: Aug. 10-Sept. 16.
Virgo: Sept. 16-Oct. 30.
Libra: Oct. 30-Nov. 23.
Scorpio: Nov. 23-29.
Ophiuchus:* Nov. 29-Dec. 17.
Sagittarius: Dec. 17-Jan. 20.

* Discarded by the Babylonians because they wanted 12 signs per year.

If you were born under Ophiuchus, I do not know whether to be sorry for you that you can’t find any horoscopes, or impressed because it seems pretty awesome. See here for more on that.

Man Attacked; Onlookers Film And Do Nothing

This is the kind of world we live in.

Sunday before last, about 7:15pm, Allen Haywood was on his way home from working out at the gym. He had a gym bag and a book. He leaned against the wall, reading, waiting for his Metro train at L’Enfant Plaza station.

He felt a whack on the back of his head, and turned around. There was a young young boy, 11 or 12 looking at him. He felt another whack, and turned again. This time it was a young girl. They were in a pack.

They began to hit and taunt him, chasing him around the station, while some filmed the whole thing on their cellphones. The beating got severe. He started bleeding. Onlookers also began filming.

Haywood pled with the girl to end it: “Stop it! I have done nothing to you!”

It sounds unreal, but here’s proof:

Haywood, 47, got away and ran to the attendant’s booth. He banged on the glass, then went back to the scene, hoping he could have the assailants detained. There, he was further taunted by the onlookers. They offered to sell him video of his attack.

Meanwhile, he was bleeding from his head.

Finally, a Metro worker arrived and insisted that Haywood leave the scene. Transit police took his statement.

No one knows yet who the assailants were or where to find them.

Farewell Martin

I learned yesterday that a friend had taken his own life. I knew him some, but not well. It makes me wish I had taken the time to get to know him better when I could. It makes me angry and hurt all at once.

Martin was a photographer. He sometimes shared his work with friends. One recent series of photos, taken at an abandoned meth lab out in the country, has stuck with me ever since he shared it.

So I thought a fitting memorial would be this series of his photos (click on any one to see it full size):

Farewell, Martin. I’ll miss you.

Brickfair, An Example of Cognitive Surplus

News Cameras Very Interested

Over the weekend, I accompanied my son to Brickfair 2010 at the Dulles Expo Center. Brickfair is a completely fan-driven annual conference. People come together to share their love of Legos, to show of scenes and models they have built, and to swap bricks.

Daniel and his friend Jeremy had created a rock concert model, a show by a fictitious band called The Sharks. It was complete with a crowd surfer, light show, and a sound booth. I was proud to see it gathering lots of interest and some news cameras too.

The whole thing fascinated me, so I made this video while I was there:

As I mention in the video, Brickfair puts me in mind of Clay Shirky’s idea of cognitive surplus. It’s not exactly the same thing, but the basic thrust is similar.

More fundamentally, though, Brickfair (and the huge number of other fan-driven conferences across a variety of interests) are testament to the idea that people like to make and share. The Internet has made it easier to organize situations where people can get together and do that — and do it while they don’t happen to be together, too.

Here’s a closer shot of The Sharks:

The Sharks in concert! (Click for full size.)