Dihydrogen Monoxide, available at a store near you

When I grow up, I want to get a job (or an internship, or just a stint in the mail room) with Corporate Accountability International, the folks who are behind the recent announcement by PepsiCo that they will label their Aquafina bottled water for what it is - tap water that's been filtered a few extra times. It's good news in the world of truth-in-marketing, and a nice success story for a so-called "corporate watchdog." (Blog entry for another day: why do we need so many corporate watchdogs? Hmmm.)

And yet, Pepsi will continue to promote the unique benefits of their Water(TM) - 0 calories, 0 sodium, 0 carbs, hooray! - just as every other bottled water maker will continue to sell their product as one of the best possible ways we can consume Water(TM). Consumers will probably continue to buy large cases of plastic bottles with plastic caps filled with Water(TM). Public drinking fountains will continue to be replaced by vending machines that glow into the night.

Continue reading Dihydrogen Monoxide, available at a store near you

Curfews as further erosion of a healthy public life

IMG_2360.JPGI remember seeing author and activist Parker J. Palmer speak in Richmond in the late 90s, about the needed renewal of America's public life. He spoke of a time and a culture where U.S. citizens were much more likely to engage each other fully and authentically in the public sphere - parks, playgrounds, town meetings, neighborhood events, community gatherings. And it wasn't just nostalgia - he talked about a strong public life as a therapy for some of the world's ills, by connecting us with viewpoints, resources, and people beyond what we know in our more insulated lives at home. As Ronald Rolheiser put it, "To participate healthily in other people’s lives takes us beyond our own obsessions. It also steadies us. Most public life has a certain rhythm and regularity to it that helps calm the chaotic whirl of our private lives." Indeed.

It's too bad, then, that we often seem to be trending toward the further diluting and replacing of a strong public life, especially for our younger community members. In Richmond, the Common Council recently decided to enact a new curfew that restricts people under the age of 18 from being out past a certain time of the evening, and threatens to fine the parents of those people progressively higher for each offense.
Continue reading Curfews as further erosion of a healthy public life

Doug, it's time to get up

Doug, Scott, Brandon and I were all sharing a room at Chicago's Drake hotel while on a weekend school field trip early on in high school. I was having a miserable time for various teen-agey angst reasons I won't go into, and I was tired of being cooped up in our room watching JFK (that is one long movie!). At the same time, I was quite fearful that our chaperones would make good on their threat to send us home early if we were caught even so much as peeking into the hallways after our prescribed curfew, so I remained stationary.

Doug, unfortunately, became the target of my antsy-ness. He had fallen asleep in one of the beds, and as 2 AM rolled around, I suggested to Brandon and Scott that we play a prank on the poor boy. All clocks were set to appear as 6:50 AM, the alarm clock was set for 10 minutes later (our prescribed time to start getting ready to go), the rest of us got into bed, the lights were turned off.
Continue reading Doug, it's time to get up

Tags, you're it

Salad, untossedI'm a nut about organizing stuff just so, and making sure bits of information are connected, interrelated, categorized, and labeled just right. The "categories" I've heretofore been using for this blog were ample for my initial purposes, but as I creep up on 200 posts, have become a less useful way to organize and access the information.

So I'm turning to tagging and tags, a fairly widespread component of many blogs these days. Basically, each post will be assigned a series of tags that help describe it, and they'll be listed on the post page when you view it on my site (currently located in the right-hand column on each full post page). You can then click on a tag to see other posts that share that tag and are, presumably, related. For example, this post will have tags of "[tag]blog[/tag]", "[tag]meta[/tag]", "[tag]website_development[/tag]" and "[tag]blogging[/tag]", and you can click on any of those to see other articles that share those tags.

I've also added a "tag cloud" to the navigation bar on the front page of my weblog, which shows the most often-used tags. A similar display is now present on the front page of my site. Soon, I will also add an index of sorts that identifies some themes in my writing, composed of groups of related tags. Eventually, I hope to fade out the use of the traditional category system.

Let me know if you find this useful, confusing, or something else entirely.

Vacation and Vocation

I'm on a paid vacation right now. For those of you who don't already know, this means my employer, Summersault, is actually paying me to not show up to the office for a while. Ha - suckers! Apparently it's pretty normal for employers around the world to offer some sort of paid "break" from the expectations that normally come with the job - showing up, getting stuff done, etc. - in the name of rejuvenating oneself, catching up, getting rest, exploring the world, spending more time with family, and so on. But I thought I might take a few ironic moments to suggest that this practice of paying people to go on vacation is a rather silly one, at least in the context of the larger effort to create the lives we want for ourselves.
Continue reading Vacation and Vocation

The haters are writing in, what are you doing?

Turtle on the GreenwayThere's some real vitriol out there in "letter to the editor" land, especially here in Richmond. In the Palladium-Item, we like to play the game "How Many People Can You Insult in 300 Words or Less?" sometimes also known as "The Wheel of Not So Subtle Discrimination and Hate-mongering!" Today's contestant is Paul M. Yevcak who says that "hypocrisy proves middle name for liberal Democrats."

My response, posted in the forums (despite my better judgement):

It would be possible to debate some of Mr. Yevcak's points related to the role of the courts, the history and nuances of U.S. immigration policy, and the legal technicalities of the recent presidential intervention in the Libby case. But I'm not sure what purpose that would serve, since Mr. Yevcak seems intent not on having meaningful debate or dialogue, but just on disparaging and insulting a wide swath of people, essentially on the grounds that they don't agree with him about how the world should work. And of course, when that is someone's goal, you can't really have a meaningful conversation with them.

Continue reading The haters are writing in, what are you doing?

All online data lost after Internet crashes

Sometimes when people call us for technical support at Summersault, they tell us that in trying to troubleshoot a problem on their desktop computer, they have "deleted the Internet." It's always tempting to feign shock and horror, saying "that was YOU!?" and ask them to "get it back, oh dear God, get it back right now!" But then decency steps in and dictates that we walk them through steps to get their network connection working again.

So I'm glad that someone out there is having fun imagining what the headlines will be on the day when the whole Internet crashes and all online data is lost. I can just hear Tony Snow saying that "we deeply regret that a backup of the Internet does not exist at this time...we had always meant to get around to making one."

What would it mean for your life?