A Theory of Community

 

  1. Human beings are innately social. We live together in groups.

  2. Living together brings a number of benefits: we can protect ourselves, we can pool resources, we can find safety when vulnerable due to illness, we can raise children, we can better shelter ourselves from elements. These things motivate our group life. In part, they are why we live in society rather than apart.

  3. Living together also brings with it a set of challenges, related directly to the benefits:
    • Crime. Fellow group members threaten us (either physically, or our property). How do we protect ourselves?
    • Economy. The place in which we live become a locus of exchange. How do we make it one where we can thrive?
    • Poverty. Differences in how exchange takes place creates some who have too few resources. What do we do about people who have trouble surviving (poverty)?
    • Health. Proximity brings with it increased disease. We depend on others to care for us when vulnerable. How do we care for group members?
    • Education. Our young ones must acquire the norms and habits that we require of one another. How do we create citizens of our group?
    • Environment. The byproducts of life become concentrated (waste, extraction of resources). How can we manage this?

  4. These challenges are not problems to be solved, but conditions to be managed. The possible ways to address them are myriad, require collective actions, and there is not an objectively correct outcome.

  5. Any group of people living together in a place will face such challenges. These are the challenges that come with being a “community.”

  6. These problems, in varying degree, face everyone in the group. Everyone is therefore trying, in their own ways to address them. This is happening throughout the group, always.
One definition of community:
  • The places where, and collective means by which, such opportunities and challenges are collectively addressed.

Brad’s White Bread Recipe

I originally wrote this in 2003, when my kids were young and we were a small, growing family. I edited the text below slightly to make it more contemporary and take into account that it is now nearing the end of 2018.

If you want to feel like Super Dad, just bake a loaf of bread for the family. Your home will fill with the sweet smell of a bakery, and will feel especially inviting.

This bread recipe is a slight modification of “Neil’s Harbor White Bread” by Christa Bauman. Neil’s Harbor is in Nova Scotia, and once I discovered this recipe I developed a fascination with the place. I have yet to visit, but I have traveled there many times in my mind. I imagine it to be a small, harbor village with fishermen and children and dogs all running about.

This recipe increases the sugar and butter slightly. It’s really the most basic white sandwich bread you can imagine, everything that Wonder bread should be and isn’t. I used to make 3 loaves every Sunday using a mixer, but you can make it a loaf at a time just using a bowl and a spoon (the directions below are for one loaf). Can you believe it, growing up my kids actually liked this better than store-bought. And, my dad used to come over every Sunday for his loaf.

One Loaf

2/3C Lukewarm Water (110 to 115 degrees F)
1/3C Milk
4T Butter, Melted in the microwave
3T Sugar and 1T Sugar
1T Yeast – Active Dry or “Bread Machine”
1t Salt – Kosher
3C Flour

Three Loaves

2C Lukewarm Water
1C Milk
½C Butter, Melted
½C Sugar and 1T Sugar
2T Yeast
1 1/2T Salt – Kosher
9C Flour

In a large, warm bowl, stir 1T of the sugar into the milk and water until it dissolves. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let it sit for five to seven minutes. Once the yeast has dissolved and is beginning to bubble, mix in the sugar, salt and butter until you have a sort of soup.

Stir in one cup of the flour. Once it’s mixed together, stir in another. Continue adding a cup of flour at a time – don’t add too much at once. Once there are about twice the number of cups of flour as there are liquid, it will be hard to stir. (If you are making three loaves, you should be using a big mixer, and switch to the dough hook after about five or six cups). Keep adding flour until there are three cups flour to every one cup water. Then, you may need to add more flour at the end– it should be a little sticky but not too wet. Knead it for ten to fifteen minutes. Once it’s elastic and feels like a damp, deflated football half filled with water, roll it into a ball. One loaf will be about the size of a softball; three will be the size of a cantaloupe.

With olive oil (use vegetable or canola oil if you don’t have olive oil), coat the sides of a large bowl and put the ball in. Flip it once or twice so it’s covered with oil. Cover it with a dishtowel and set it aside in a warm spot away from drafts.

In anywhere from 40 minutes to 1-1/2 hours, the dough will have risen to about double its original size. It will feel moister, and won’t be as dense. Flip it out onto a hard surface (coat the surface with a bit of flour so the dough won’t stick to it) and punch the dough down until it’s flat. Then, roll it into a loaf, about the diameter of a soda can or slightly smaller.

Now, turn on the oven and preheat it to 400 degrees.

Oil the inside of a large loaf pan (Pam will work fine) and put the shaped loaf into it. If the dough has a “seam,” put it on the bottom. Cover the loaf with a dishtowel and let it rise again. It should grow to about double size again, so the dough is just about an inch below the top of the loaf pan. This second rise will take anywhere from 40 minutes to 1-1/2 hours as well. It all depends on your climate, the ingredients, and luck.

Once the loaf is up to about an inch or so below the top of the loaf pan, bake it for 18 minutes at 400 degrees. It will puff up nicely, and turn golden brown. When it’s ready, take it out of the oven and turn it out of the pan. It will sound hollow when you thump it. Let it cool on a rack if you have one or on a wooden cutting board.

D48F3A52-F65F-499B-9A8D-A8AAD98D5548Now, go get your family and give them some fresh, warm bread with butter spread all over it!

This bread freezes well; just wait until it’s cooled to room temperature before you put it in a plastic bag and toss it in the freezer. Since it has some fat content, this bread will keep up to about four days once it’s sliced. Don’t throw away the heels and old pieces; it makes great French Toast.

Things I Don't Understand

Just a few things I don’t understand:

  • Why are 90% of beauty salons named with a pun? (“Shear Energy.” “The Mane Event.”)
  • Why do real estate and insurance agents have their photos on their business cards, when it actually makes them seem less trustworthy?
  • Why do bureaucrats (and people who aspire to bureaucratism) say “at this time?” What is that supposed to mean?

What don’t you understand?

Chronicle: Follow These People. Me: Too Long.

Andrea Jarrell pointed out an interesting article recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It’s a list of ten people to follow on Twitter, but it also includes some interesting discussion of what Twitter is and how you might use it. It’s geared toward academics — people who often live and interact in pages rather than sentences.

The piece includes this sentence:

With Twitter, no update can be longer than 140 characters, which, to give you a sense of that limit, is the precise length of this sentence.

It’s meant to be an example of how tough it might be to live in a 140-character box. My immediate response: that sentence is too long.

Later in the article, the list of people to follow comes along, and each one gets a name, a link, a sample Twitter update, and then between one and three paragraphs of description.

Again, I thought: too long. Just give me the list.

At first I thought this negative reaction to the article might have something to do with being corrupted by all this immediate-communication technology. I’ve been altered and can’t manage a sustained argument anymore. Fast food only, please. But I don’t think that’s true. (I know it’s not true. I write pieces that include sustained arguments and nuance for a living.)

Instead, I think it’s because, when I happened on the article, I was in burst-mode and wanted to grab information in bite-size chunks. However, since the article is not aimed at someone like me, but at a different kind of audience, there are certain conventions it must follow. It’s got to be sensitive to the reader.

The author of the piece is a Twitter user and presumably has similar sensibilities to other Twitter users. That is, shrt is gd. But, in essentially writing a travel piece, telling digital foreigners about a new land, the author admirably adopted the conventions and norms of his audience.

Interesting: In conveying the utility of Twitter, you’ve got to step completely out of its bounds.

Or just start using it and see what happens.

P.S. Bet u want list. Here:

  1. @PRsarahevansSarah Evans, director of public relations at Elgin Community College
  2. @jayrosen_nyuJay Rosen, associate professor of journalism at New York University
  3. @hrheingoldHoward Rheingold, a lecturer at the University of California at Berkeley
  4. @amandafrenchAmanda French, an assistant research scholar and digital-curriculum specialist at NYU
  5. @academicdaveDavid Parry, an assistant professor of emerging media and communications at the University of Texas at Dallas
  6. @dancohenDan Cohen, director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University
  7. @paullevPaul Levinson, a professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University
  8. @mcleodScott McLeod, an associate professor at Iowa State University and director of the university’s Center for the Advanced Study of Technology Leadership in Education
  9. @mweschMichael L. Wesch, an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University
  10. @presidentgeeGordon Gee, president of Ohio State University