Archive - Jan 2012

January 17th

A Moment of Darkness

Monday evening, I left my office, headed down the cinderblock lined back stairs and out into the back parking lot. I climbed in the old black car and prepared for my commute home. When I turned on the car, the radio sprung to life with the latest from NPR. It was Martin Luther King, Jr. day, and all the stories were about his life and legacy. As a clip of church music played from Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, a moment of sadness swept over me.

Some of it surely was feeling the grief of the death of a great man. It was probably compounded by my thoughts following a tweet chat during the day, about how much remains to be done. All of it came together into something perhaps best captured in the end of Lord of the Flies when "Ralph wept for the end of innocence, the darkness of man's heart, and the fall through the air of the true, wise friend called Piggy".

Yet it seemed like something more, something bigger, "as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced".

When I went through a particularly rough period in my life, I experienced a deep depression and read a bit about it. William Styron's book, "Darkness Visible" always seemed to be one of the best descriptions I've read of depression. It wasn't quite like a Darkness Visible. It wasn't as deep, and it was fleeting.

I pulled out of the parking lot, and headed down the side street. The moment was over and I was on my commute home.

When I got home, I had a bad headache, and went to bed early.

This morning, a slushy snow covered the ground. Was the moment of darkness, or the headache just a reaction to the coming storm? Or, had something else happened, perhaps as far away as Alderaan.

At lunch time, I took a walk. As headed down Main Street, an unexpectedly large number of people greeted me. Was this just a bipolar swing in the other direction? Or, had I passed through something, sort of like leveling up in empathy? Had the moment of darkness been crossing some threshold in my personal rendition of the monomyth?

As I headed back to the office, I passed a sign on the side of a church, "God is speaking still," Was there some spiritual element to the moment of darkness?

I pause before I post this on my blog. What sort of reaction will this elicit? Will a psychologist seem some sort of warning sign in this? An insurance company some reason to decline coverage? Will my friends who read marketing blogs understand this? How will it relate to their online world views of trying to monetize blog posts?

And for me, what does this mean for my blog, my writing, and anything else this might portend?

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January 16th

Death of the Author, Birth of the Blogger

As part of my continued thinking about the Introduction to Theory of Literature, I'm now thinking about Roland Barthes essay, "The Death of the Author". The first paragraph contains the section,

writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin. Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing

When I first started reading this, I thought of various discussions about objectivity, especially as it relates to journalism, and the subjectivity that bloggers return to discourse. Perhaps the death of the author has been replaced by the birth of the blogger, a writer that doesn't slip away from the text. Barthes goes on to talk about 'prerequisite impersonality', and my mind wanders to the importance of authenticity and being very personal in writing for social media.

Around the same time as I was reading Barthes, I listened to a radio show on NPR about ghost writers, where the 'author' is the person that the book is about, even if the 'author' does very little of the writing, and the ghost writer, who does the writing, disappears.

So, I'm spending more time thinking about the difference between the author and the writer. In the essay, Barthes also talks about collaborative writing and automatic writing. I wonder what Barthes would make of Google Docs or people that collaboratively write as part of role playing online.

Yet with that, I find myself thinking of other ways of thinking about authors. The author exists in a cultural context. That context is part of the author. When I write, I write based on what I've read, what I've experienced. When I write, it is partly my cultural context that is writing.

As we spend more time online, interacting with texts we have chosen to interact with, we can become very parochial, echoing the concern of Eli Pariser in The Filter Bubble. We can become bloated as Clay Johnson warns about in The Information Diet.

So, how do we understand authors and writers in the Internet age? If you are a blogger, or some other form of social media enthusiast, what is the relationship you have between what you read online and what you write online, and how do you imagine it fits into other people's information diets?

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January 15th

2011 Hard Cider Recap

For the past several years, I’ve been brewing and bottling hard cider. You can read the Cider section of this blog for details. This evening, Kim and I bottled the final batch. So, I thought it would be good to take an inventory of what we have for cider and how the batches turned out.

In other years, I was much more detailed about my cider brewing, tracking the yeast that I used, the specific gravity before and after, how long it went through each fermentation, etc. This year I had too many other things going on, so I kept mental notes, but nothing very detailed.

The batch we just completed was five gallons of late season cider and one gallon of black current juice. We used a dry yeast normally used for light red wines. It has come out incredibly well.

When it was bottled, I did an inventory of the hard cider I have. Currently, I have around twenty five gallons of hard cider bottled and stored in the basement. About ten gallons are from this year. Four gallons is from 2009 and 2010. Another 11 gallons, I’ve classified as part of my reserve. What I’ve been doing is setting aside three 22 ounces bottles of each batch that I save for future years. Some of that is to see how the different ciders age. Some of it is to save really special bottles. It probably works out to be about three gallons a year for the past four years, with a gallon missing for reserves that have been tapped.

Based on the experiments, I suspect that next year, I’ll do a couple batches early in the year of just straight cider using an ale yeast. That is what most of the cider this year was, and it came out really well. I might do another batch using a Champaign yeast. I did that a few years ago, and it came out pretty well, especially after it aged. We didn’t do any maple batches this year, but the maple cider has always been really good, so we may try another maple batch next year. Then, the black currant came out very well, so we may try a few more batches of that.

I’m kicking around ideas for other ciders with fruit juice, as well as trying another pear cider, even though that didn’t turn out so well the first time around. If I do pears again, I’ll look for a place to get earlier season pears. Of course a lot can happen over a year, so we’ll see what things are looking like in the fall.

Any other hard cider brewers want to share their experiences?

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January 14th


If you follow legal issues, you may have run across the acronym, SLAPP. SLAPP is an abbreviation of 'Strategic lawsuit against public participation'. Wikipedia describes them as lawsuits that are intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. If you have lots of money, you can tie up someone with little money in court and effectively shutdown their criticism or creativity.

To address this, people have sought anti-SLAPP legislation to balance the right of access to the courts and to justice.

What does this have to do with SOPA? SOPA , the Stop Online Privacy Act, and the related bill, PIPA, the Protect IP Act for copyright and other intellectual property holders to fight online privacy. Ideally, this makes a lot of sense. Article 8 of the Constitution grants Congress the power "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;"

This brings up the first issue with SOPA. Will it really promote the progress of science and useful arts? One of the concerns with SOPA is that it benefits large corporate entities at the expense of individual creators. When an individual creates a new work of art, making fair use of existing art, will that individual have the same opportunity to shares and profit from their art as large corporations?

If SOPA/PIPA passes, those chances are likely to be diminished. The actions that could be taken against creators of derivative art are draconian and appear to provide major studios a new avenue to SLAPP creative individuals.

So, perhaps in the spirit of the Magna Carta, "To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice", SOPA should be modified to make it a little closer to a level playing field. Perhaps, a penalty for falsely claiming copyright infringement should meet the same punishment as the penalty for infringing on a copyright. If Sony falsely accuses someone of infringing on a copyright, Sony's access to the Web should be blocked. No more Sony websites. If Time Warner falsely accuses someone of infringing on a copyright, they should be banned from selling any of their material. No more Time Warner on iTunes.

So, particularly to any Senators that have spent their careers fighting for consumer rights and for due process, they need to either defeat PIPA or make sure that it is amended so that the ideals of the Constitution and the Magna Carta are properly upheld and that large corporations are not given even more unfair advantages over individuals.

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January 13th

#ff @triberr Part 2 @BarbaraDuke @RAWarrior @Jason__Ramsey @thewebkaiser @CHRISVOSS @rictownsend @elyshemer @joshua_d

This week, I'm doing another Triberr based Follow Friday. I did my first one last week. This week, I looked at the Top Traffic Driving Tribemates. At the top of the list is @BarbaraDuke. Her description talks about being a Christian Coach, a breast cancer survivor, and mentions rheumatoid arthritis. It made me wonder if she knew @RAWarrior, another social media friend who is very active in the rheumatoid arthritis community.

Coming in next is @Jason__Ramsey. He describes himself as a husband and father who loves twitter and who sells wigs. Hmm. Possible business connection? Maybe Jason should be talking with Barbara about people battling cancer that need wigs.

Next on the list is @thewebkaiser. He's been posting some really good content from CES this week, so I've been tweeting links to his articles. Right after that is @chrisvoss, who also has been writing some good articles that I've been tweeting about.

Next is @rictownsend. I know him from Empire Avenue. Finishing off the list are @elyshemer @joshua_d. I don't know them as well as the rest, so perhaps you should just head out and read their bios yourself.

That wraps up this week's Follow Friday list. How about yours?

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