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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Gripping Hand

Here's one for you Facebook users who are also fans of "The Mote in God's Eye" and the followups.

On the one hand, Facebook did psychological experimentation on their users, possibly including you.  And people who do that sort of experimentation by scientific standards say Facebook didn't do the experiments ethically, not sufficiently providing notice or seeking permission.  So you might consider leaving Facebook in disgust...

On the other hand, your Mom is on Facebook, and is not the sort to puzzle her way through some other venue, so you kinda have to stay.

Gripping hand.

Facebook did psychological experiments on your Mom.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Episode 135 -- In Defence of Marriage

This is my humble response to laws claiming to defend marriage, revising and extending an earlier comment I made on Twitter.

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Episode 135

Hi.  Something I wanted to say before I lose my nerve, but it's been on my mind for a while.

This whole debate about gay marriage?  It really isn't about gay marriage.  It's about marriage.  And it's about the role of the government in marriage.

Right now, the role of the government is to acknowledge the commitment between the two people, and say, "Since you've done the right paperwork and made this commitment to each other, we'll give you certain rights and privileges, and impose certain responsibilities.  It is most emphatically not the role of government to decide who gets married, simply to acknowledge the fact of the marriage and treat them as a married couple as provided by law.

That seems to be the point being missed by those who argue for DOMA and other quasi-religious laws to defend, or support, or encourage traditional marriage.  The government has no role in those parts of marriage.  The supporters of DOMA et al don't think they should, either, really.  They think -all- such a law would do would be to prevent people of whom they don't approve from being married.  That's wrong, twice over.

It's wrong because it doesn't actually prevent two people in a committed relationship from being committed to each other.  Their own religions don't say the government marries people.  Their churches and their deities marry people, the people marry each other, the government just does some paperwork, for all those rights, privileges and responsibilities I mentioned earlier.  By their own standards, people who are committed to each other are married, far beyond the governments poor power to add or detract.  They often feel their own religious ceremonies make those people more married, but they certainly don't believe the government can.

And it's wrong because it sets a standard, that the government _can_ define what is and is not marriage.   That's been done to a point already, for good or for ill, mostly for ill.  It's that whole slippery slope thing rearing it's ugly head once again.  I find it ironic that the arguments that come to mind for me against putting the government in charge of marriage are the same ones GK Chesterton made a century ago. 

If you think I'm wrong, read or re-read "Eugenics and Other Evils."  If you're listening to this you're probably aware I recorded the whole book to audio a while back, and you can still find it on Podiobooks, or in back episodes of Stories from the Hiber-Nation.  I shall try to force myself to not add entire chapters of those recordings to this one.  But let me grab a couple of sentences on point in my opinion.  For some reason, folks who argue for some law "defending marriage" keep raising the issue of some guy wanting to marry a goat.  I don't know of anyone other than those folks who can't keep that image out of their minds, and one wonders how much of their time is devoted to their fascination with this possibility.  Chesterton had something similar to say regarding the Eugenist's fascination.  "If men did not marry their grandmothers when it was, for all they knew, a most hygienic habit; if we know now that they instinctly avoided scientific peril; that, so far as it goes, is a point in favour of letting people marry anyone they like. It is simply the statement that sexual selection, or what Christians call falling in love, is a part of man which in the rough and in the long run can be trusted. And that is the destruction of the whole of this science at a blow."

A couple more snipped quotations for you.  "Far into the unfathomable past of our race we find the assumption that the founding of a family is the personal adventure of a free man.  ... Among free men, the law, more often the creed, most commonly of all the custom, have laid all sorts of restrictions on sex for this reason or that. But law and creed and custom have never concentrated heavily except upon fixing and keeping the family when once it had been made. The act of founding the family, I repeat, was an individual adventure outside the frontiers of the State. Our first forgotten ancestors left this tradition behind them; and our own latest fathers and mothers a few years ago would have thought us lunatics to be discussing it."  That's what Chesterton said.  And that's what we lunatics are discussing now, having the State decide who is really married.

Another common defence of these laws is given in response to future abuse of the laws once created.  Once a law is in place to give the State more power over marriage, as with anything else, the State will take more and more power over it.  These law-givers smile and say "We would never allow that to happen, of course."  Here's what Chesterton said about those people.  "I call them the Autocrats. They are those who give us generally to understand that every modern reform will "work" all right, because they will be there to see. Where they will be, and for how long, they do not explain very clearly. I do not mind their looking forward to numberless lives in succession; for that is the shadow of a human or divine hope. But even a theosophist does not expect to be a vast number of people at once. And these people most certainly propose to be responsible for a whole movement after it has left their hands. Each man promises to be about a thousand policemen. If you ask them how this or that will work, they will answer, "Oh, I would certainly insist on this"; or "I would never go so far as that"; as if they could return to this earth and do what no ghost has ever done quite successfully—force men to forsake their sins. Of these it is enough to say that they do not understand the nature of a law any more than the nature of a dog. If you let loose a law, it will do as a dog does. It will obey its own nature, not yours. Such sense as you have put into the law (or the dog) will be fulfilled. But you will not be able to fulfil a fragment of anything you have forgotten to put into it."

See my point?  It's the same debate, with the same forces making the same arguments, for seemingly different reasons.   Maybe it's just that I've gotten older, but every time I hear the modern arguments, I hear echoes of the old ones.  And the reason I intend to harp incessantly upon this particular point is that I think it is one that those religious who are supporting these actions might acknowledge and agree with.  I bring GK Chesterton to the table with me, because I doubt any of them could argue he wasn't a wise and religious man.  As a man of his time, he most likely would not have spoken in favor of gay marriage.  But he's already spoken about this sort of law presented by essentially the same people in shinier suits.

These laws don't defend marriage.  I don't think you defend marriage by having it more strictly ruled by the State.  Judge for yourself if that has worked in Communist China.  I think you strengthen marriage by encouraging and acknowledging the committed relationships that lead to marriage.  We have hundreds of thousands of people who have those committed relationships, who ask of us that we acknowledge their commitments as we acknowledge other commitments we think we understand better.  "Far into the unfathomable past of our race we find the assumption that the founding of a family is the personal adventure of a free man.  ... falling in love, is a part of man which in the rough and in the long run can be trusted."

I think that says it all.  Good night.  And good luck.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Episode 134 -- Second Life dot Biz

Yes, you could do business in Second Life.  But there's some things they didn't tell you.

Episode 134 -- SecondLife dot Biz

Hello again, and welcome back.  Making another run at a podcast, since it's still Sunday and I don't have to work till tomorrow.  And I wanted to talk about Second Life again, and I had a topic that I thought of and thought worthwhile a ways back, and hadn't spoken about till now.

A few years ago, Linden Labs came up with the clever idea of Enterprise Second Life.  They figured they could sell Second Life to businesses, convincing them that it could really be a good place to do business.  Some companies tried it for a while.  I don't know of many still here.  Heck, I don't know of any still here.  But there might be some of which I am unaware.

Some businesses in particular would have done badly in Second Life, those businesses that came to SL expecting to sell RL, Real Life, stuff to people in Second Life.  It's possible to sell real world stuff in a virtual world, it really is.  There are tools here in SL that could be quite effective, properly used.  But if you're coming to SL for straight up sales, you need to come into it aware of what you need to do to make that work.

You have three possible audiences in Second Life.  Why three?  Because there are always three things, ask anyone.  Anyway, here are your three audiences.

First, you can sell your stuff to people in Second Life if you have stuff the people _already_ in SL are going to want to buy.  You would need to come to SL with an already compelling product, and it would have to present well in SL, and be particularly buyable via the SL environment.  There are products exactly like that.  It's certainly easier to sell in SL things that are _for_ SL.  But that doesn't happen on the scale RL businesses are used to. A thousand Lindens is about four US dollars.  That'd take you a while, just sayin'.  Content should be sellable in SL.  Books should be sellable in SL.  Movies & music should be sellable in SL.   And there are folks selling all those products in SL, to the existing SL audience.

But whatever you want to sell, you'd be assuming you're going to sell to people already _in_ Second Life.  There are between 20 and 30 million live accounts in SL altogether.  The most accounts I've ever seen logged into SL at once was around 60,000.  There's your market.  It's no Facebook.  But Facebook has it's own flaws.

So that's your first audience, folks already here.  Your second audience is your current customers.  You could convince your current customers to come to SL to interact with your company.  I suspect that'd be more doable B-to-B than B-to-C.   A business could well have their own internal uses for the SL technologies and environment.  Certainly educational institutions have used it well in the past, and their successes can inform your plans.  It's a profoundly immersive environment at it's best.  But my point about that second audience is that you have to bring them.  To a degree, for your business to succeed in Second Life, you need to work for the success of Second Life.  You bring your own audience.

The third audience is somewhat like the second.  You bring new customers to where you are, to your place in Second Life.  That could be hard work, depending on who you are and what you sell and to whom.  To a degree it's like convincing customers to come to your new store in the Mall.  You're attracting customers to you, but you're also attracting customers to the Mall.  You really can't get them to come to you in the Mall without getting them to the Mall, now can you?  I'm old enough to remember when Malls were a new phenomenon.  Up to a point people came to the Mall because they'd never been to one, because there hadn't been any.  That novelty helped the initial success of a number of businesses.

Second Life isn't new anymore.  They just had a big celebration for the 11th birthday of Second Life.  I visited the SL11B event, briefly.   There was a lot of potential there, and a bit of sadness, too.  Those of us who have participated in this most social of Social Media know that potential well.  And it's sad that so few who could make use of that potential are willing to try now.  Because... Second Life isn't new anymore. 

So, it has always been true that to succeed in any business in Second Life, you'd have to appeal to those of us already here, or bring your existing customers here, or bring new customers here.   Enterprise SL failed because, I think, Linden Labs failed to communicate the last two requirements.  In the process of shifting resources to Enterprise SL, Linden Labs pulled resources away from parts of SL that were already working well, especially education.  And when Enterprise SL fizzled, those resources were never put back where they'd been working.  Too many Enterprise SL businesses came with the idea that they could pitch their tent and the crowds would come flocking to them, with no effort on their part.  That doesn't work.  It doesn't work in RL, and it doesn't work in SL, and wishing won't make it so.  But you're smart.  You knew that already.

Could Second Life be made a productive environment for business?  Certainly it could.  I think I'll do another show explaining how smart people like you could make that happen.

Let me know what you think.  Call the comment line, hit the websites, tap me on Twitter or Facebook or, here's a crazy idea, tell me in Second Life.  I'll be around.  See ya.

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Episode 133 -- I Have No Words

Episode 133 -- I Have No Words

Hello again, and welcome back.

This experiment of producing a podcast a day hasn't gone smoothly.  To produce a new podcast each day, I must have something new to say each day.  And at the moment I'm fresh out.  There really isn't that much content in my life.  It's all rather ordinary, really.

What I really need is other people's content.  I would like to be producing podcasts for other people, especially other organizations.  I'm sure there a lot of non-profits who could use a podcast of their very own.  They may not know that yet, but they really could.  And I'm willing to take those on for the simple reason it'd give me content to put out on this channel. 

I started the original podcast in 2007 because I wanted to start a podcast.  I wanted to play with the hardware and the software and the web tools I'd read about.  All the cool kids were doing podcasts.  I wanted my own.  I started the other three or four podcasts because I quickly ran out of stuff to say on the original Grizzly's Growls.  Because I don't do much of interest, so I don't have much to talk about.  Reading a book aloud for a recording isn't entirely easy to do well.  But it's easier than finding something of my own to say, day after day after day.

A year or two after starting this podcast I put together the nuts and bolts to do a podcast for the Duluth Art Institute.  By that point I had a very clear picture of what would be the coatrack on which I'd hang their podcast.  I have a Feedburner feed already set up.  I have the graphics already selected and prepared.  I know the internal mechanics I'd use to distribute their podcasts separately as well as in my own feed.  Add to that, the Institute already produces a fair amount of content in the form of email newsletters about their upcoming events. 

I could start the podcast without writing any new content, though after a point it'd be preferable to have material better suited to audio, or perhaps video.  While it's not my primary specialty, I'm a fair hand with video as well as audio.  And given the visual nature of much of their art and their activities, there'd be plenty of content to produce a weekly podcast for them.

So I put all that together, and I went in search of who to ask for permission.  And I couldn't find anyone to ask.  The people I used to know involved with the Institute just aren't anymore.  At my age, it's possible some of them are dead.  And those few perfectly nice folks I have talked to at the Institute didn't present themselves as in a position to say yes or no.  They also didn't say they couldn't say yes or no.  Nor did they say who to ask.  So that project has been waiting for permission for several years now.

I now have the knowledge to build a similar set of tools for some other non-profit, and to produce a podcast.  I doubt I'd have the time to involve myself in their other activities.  But I can record and edit and release podcasts in the middle of the night, whether or not the other participants are even awake.  I don't need prime time for podcasting, just time, and I have sufficient of that, I think.

I say non-profits because (a) they're more likely to give me the chance, and (b) I'm enough of an unknown quantity that I'd be unlikely to get paid initially.  I'd certainly be happy to produce one for money, for a commercial company, and in an ideal world I could do this stuff for a living.  But I'd need a portfolio to start with, and my portfolio so far is a bit thin on commercial-sounding content.  The books are a bit of a help, some of them turned out quite well if I do say so myself.  But I doubt there are many companies who'd pay for an audiobook.

So let me ask.  If you know of a non-profit that'd like to have a podcast, have them contact me.  My personal contact info is, well, personal.  But I do have the comment line, 218-234-CALL, that's 218-234-2255, and when you call that you're basically calling me anyway.  I ask not because I'd like to be paid, although sure, I'd like to be paid.  I'd like to be able to podcast all the time.  And maybe I will, someday.  I ask about non-profits in part because the music and such I have available are free for non-commercial use, and not for commercial use.  Don't have a lot of resources for commercial production.

It'd be easier to do a podcast for an organization here in the Duluth area, because I don't have the resources to travel at the moment.  It wouldn't be impossible, though, to put something together for someone outside of Duluth.  I'd simply have a little harder time getting the content here for the production.

I can also see possibilities in producing podcasts for some of our local political types.  When I ran for City  Council down in Ann Arbor my primary self-promotion resource was a video project produced by someone else.  And we did remarkably well, in an off-year election where there was nothing else on the ballot to vote for but my opponent or I.  You probably guessed I didn't win.  But having a couple thousand people come out to support me, that knocked my socks off.  I'm not particularly political anymore, and I sure as hell don't want to emulate some of the strident trash that has been produced in elections in recent years.  But issue pieces, or meet-the-candidate or get-out-the-vote -- yeah, I could do that.

I ask now, because I want Mike Hampston's book "Swinging Doors" to do well, and the only way I have to promote that so far is to simply put out enough content to raise the profile of my podcasts sufficiently that people, finding one, will find them all, and find "Swinging Doors" in the process.  It was a great honor to be allowed to produce the book, and I want to do right by it.  And I simply don't have enough content to fill all the hours I'd like to be producing.  If I can find it, I may at least be able to increase awareness of the book somewhat, indirectly.  If I don't have the content, I am as Evo Terra terms it, "Some dork with a microphone."  As I've said, I'd also take financial support, and there are donation buttons on the websites.  But I haven't done anything to earn it and I'm not sure what I'd do with it.

There it is, short and sweet.  Think about it and let me know, okay?  Thanks.

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Friday, July 4, 2014

Episode 132 -- Where Credit Is Due

Got a pleasant, intelligent and informative response to a nastygram email I sent, and I wanted to give credit where it's due.  Yes, I am a crotchety old man.

Episode 132 - Where Credit Is Due

Hello and Happy Independence Day to you all in the US, and happy 4th of July to those of you who aren't here -- I gather you still have the 4th of July there, if not the blowing stuff up for entertainment.  However, if you want to blow stuff up for entertainment, you have my permission, just be safe and don't get anyone hurt in the process.

I wanted to share with you an email I got, in response to a nastygram I sent out about a recent Duluth Transit Authority detour issue.  The road crews from the city have been out doing some work on the avenue where I live.  Normally I can just cross the street to catch the bus to work, and and coming home the bus stops very close to my home.  With the construction, the DTA had worked out a detour that avoided the original patch where the city was working and still passed my house -- and then the road guys changed to a different part of the road, and the DTA made a huge change in their detour, leaving me several blocks to walk to and from the bus.  The DTA didn't update their website with the new detour route right away, and I had the joyous surprise of having the bus home stop and the driver tell us he was taking this huge detour along the freeway.  So I was rather cranky.  Just as a hint, I don't walk with my cane because it's a pretty color.  Although yes, it is a pretty color.  Anyway, for my rather snappish email, I got this response from the DTA:

Hello David,
First, I apologize for the inconvenience. In my 26 years here, I am not sure
I've been as frustrated with a detour as 24th AW. We were not contacted by the
city about the roadwork on 24th AW between 4th and 6th Streets and only found
out when the press release was released. We set up our detour route, and then
had to modify it when they opened up the intersection at 6th Street. Yesterday
at approximately 3:00p, with no notice, they closed 24th AW at 9th Street. In
that area there is no viable detour route for a 40' bus and we were forced to
re-route all buses to Piedmont Avenue and 21st AW. The drivers were sent this
detour routing, but with no notice, we were not able to communicate this to the
public. I am awaiting a call from the inspector on the project this morning so
I can get some answers. Once again, I am truly sorry for the confusion.

Rod Fournier
Director of Operations
Duluth Transit Authority

I appreciate Mr Fornier responding promptly and directly to my nastygram.  I think that is a very classy response.  If anyone is looking for transparency, that's a good example for ya.  I'm still pissed, and moreso while walking to and from the bus, but I'm not pissed at the DTA anymore.  They were presented with a fait accompli and stuck with finding a way around the problem.  Literally, come to think.

I'm also not pissed at the road crews.  This avenue is heavily used all year round, and is a Snow Emergency Route.  If you can get through anywhere, you can get through on a Snow Emergency Route, that's what they're for.  So they get heavily used and thoroughly salted, sanded and beat to rubble through the winter.  Road work in Duluth is a tough business, and I respect those who have to struggle to get it done on our much abused and often quite steep roadways.

But there's someone who is responsible for communication for the city, especially this sort of internal communication.  The road guys didn't just roll the dice a couple days ago and decide this particular work had to happen now.  Someone scheduled it, probably a while back, and someone was supposed to make sure those affected would know it was coming.  They didn't do that, and given their job is exactly that, communication, it was a big failure.  Someone in particular needs the finger pointed at them, and I'm happy to be the one to give them the finger.  I mean, um... pretend I said that in a nicer-sounding way.

Anyway, I'm gonna go look for rummage sales and get some sunburn for a while.  I hope you enjoy your holiday, and we'll talk to you next time.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Episode 131 -- Using the Space

Episode 131 - Using the space.

A Modest Proposal to use the space in the former Lincoln Elementary School.  It'll never happen, but here it is.

Hello there, just a quick one to fill the space.

A while back they shut down the Lincoln Elementary School.  It's not a new building, it's kinda huge, and there aren't a lot of practical uses for huge old schools.

A local organization is trying to push through funding for a project to turn it into housing, based on nearby signs I've seen.  There are two possible ways this could be a terrible idea.  If they want to turn it into expensive housing, it's a terrible idea because Duluth hasn't much use for more expensive housing, or for that matter the expensive housing we already have.  You're starting out with a building with lots of single rooms all by themselves, with none of their own plumbing.  So right off the bat you're going to have to do one hell of a lot of plumbing.  It'd be a tremendously expensive project, to produce something most of the city will have no practical use for.

Cheap housing?  If you want to go cheap enough, you could just stick with the shared bathrooms with way too small stalls.  No showers there, but you could maybe hack together some option for that.  And that's one issue, cheap enough.  If you try to keep it cheap enough to be useable by the people who really need it, it'll basically be a dump of a residence, and if you don't, there's no point in doing it in the first place.

So here's my alternative idea.  Daycare.

We have scattered across the city many small "daycare in my home" businesses.  They're licensed and regulated, so I'd assume they're legit businesses providing a valuable service, or we have crappy regulators.  I prefer to think positive.

And here we have this vast building, designed and used for years to keep kids in.  There was that education stuff they did, but they also kept a whole lot of kids in one building where they could be watched and regulated, and I suppose protected, too.

So, you rent out each classroom to one of those daycare operations.  They now have a space to keep the kids we know must be safe for kids, after all, we kept kids in there for a very long time.  There's plenty of bathrooms.  There's a big old place for feeding large numbers of kids.  There's a nurses office.  There's administrative space.  Seems perfect to me.

By providing the spaces, we make these small businesses more viable.  Sure, the spaces would be subsidized.  You think the big housing project thing isn't looking for government money?  But this is an obviously practical use of the building, because it's a sizeable chunk of what the building had been used for in the past.  We already know it'll work for the purpose.  Just a minor amount of modification, modernization and repurposing, and we've got it up and running.  Piece of cake.

Can't fill all the rooms?  Turn the rest into kid focused and parent focused stores and services.  How many of those are scattered randomly around the town?   Give them space at a decent price in a central location with most of their customers right there anyway, and they'll thrive.

Will this idea ever happen?  No, of course not.  There's no political capital to be gained from such a practical idea.  And I have no particular interest in running for office again, so I'm sure not going to push for it.  But hey, I did my part, I offered it to all of you.  Run with it.

That's it for me tonight.  I look forward to your comments on or, or on the comment line for the podcast, 218-234-CALL, that's 218-234-2255.  Later, kids.

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Episode Zero -- A Minor Local Celebrity

With "Meditation Impromptu" by Kevin MacLeod Originally posted to Libsyn under my original setup around 02/2007.  When I ran out ...