Wordless Wednesday

NCSL Keynote, originally uploaded by Aldon.

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Recovering our Full Capacity for Joy

As we prepare to move, we are confronting issues with Fiona. She will have a much smaller room in a much smaller house, and we need to get rid of some of her toys. This shouldn’t be a big issue. There are many toys that she is too big for and hasn’t touched for years, but they still have an emotional attachment and we need to be gentle about how we remove them.

One toy, we weren’t gentle enough about in our plans for getting rid of it, and she had a melt down. We talked it through with her can came up with plans that she was happy with, and she quickly recovered from her meltdown.

I am on a mailing list with a person whose mother just died. The list is made up of psychologists and the discussions can get pretty intense at times. One person spoke about a friend who lost her daughter to cancer eleven years ago. She described her friend as struggling with rage and aching grief for years. Her friend used this grief to work for positive social change. The writer reported that it was only this year that her friend “recovered her full capacity for joy”.

What a remarkable phrase. Fiona, at age five, has not experienced the level of grief that many of us have. The grief she experiences and feels deeply are about the loss of a toy, and she bounces back in a matter of minutes. She quickly recovers her full capacity for joy.

As we get older, we build up one emotional scar after another. Our ability to recover our full capacity for joy weakens, and some of us don’t manage experience joy in its fullest.

Kim and I had only been dating for six weeks when her mother died. Over the first few years of our marriage, we attended many funerals together. Kim’s mother’s mother died within the year from a broken heart. Kim’s mother’s father died a slow agonizing death from Alzheimer’s.

When Kim was little, she used to go over to her grandparents house almost daily. It is important to her that Fiona be able to get to her grandparents house frequently, and the house we are moving to is about two blocks from Kim’s grandparents and a short drive from Fiona’s grandparents.

This is a very different orientation than I grew up with. My father’s father died 64 years ago, yesterday; years before I was born. His mother died eight years later, so I never got a chance to meet either of my paternal grandparents. My mother was the youngest in her family, and her parents were quite old by the time I came along. We would see them a couple times a year. My early memories of my grandfather are restricted to him watching Red Sox games on a small old black and white TV and sneaking us kids sourballs when our parents weren’t looking. I never really experienced the joy that Fiona finds with her “papa”.

So, as we build up the collection of emotional scars that life gives us, I wonder, how do we go about recovering our full capacity for joy. I’m sure that my therapist friends would talk about the importance of therapy. I’m sure that priest friends would talk about God’s role.

Mary Gauthier’s song, “Mercy Now” captures some of this. She writes about her father dying of Alzheimer’s,

My father could use a little mercy now
The fruits of his labor
Fall and rot slowly on the ground
His work is almost over
It won't be long and he won't be around
I love my father, and he could use some mercy now

In these days after September 11th, in these days of war in Iraq, in these days of financial uncertainty, we could all use a little mercy now, we could all use a little help in recovering our full capacity for joy.

Every living thing could use a little mercy now
Only the hand of grace can end the race
Towards another mushroom cloud
People in power, well
They'll do anything to keep their crown
I love life, and life itself could use some mercy now

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The canary and net neutrality

We all sit quietly in our computer rooms and blog our hearts out about the latest outrage by our government and our worries about how large companies efforts to limit net neutrality could affect our ability to get out important messages. Yet, for most of us, this is academic or hypothetical. How many of you know someone who has had his account terminated because of stuff that he has written?

Yet this isn’t hypothetical or academic. Hossein Derakhshan, aka Hoder, noted Iranian Blogger has constantly been the canary in the coal mine. He has been blogging about Iran since 2002. He has received death threats. Today, I received an email in which he talks about how his hosting service, Hosting Matters, terminated his account because of what he has written.

Doing a little searching, I found this post by Roger Simon about a denial of service attack on Hosting Matters, which knocked out Instapundit, LGF, Tim Blair, NZ Bear, etc..

In Hoder’s case, Washington Institute fellow, Mohammad Mehdi Khalaji threatened to sue Hoder because of comments Khalaji asserts were defamatory. Instead of seeking due process, Hosting Matters abruptly terminated Hoder’s account. Hoder is now considering legal action against Hosting Matters.

This is a good illustration of why net neutrality is so important. Hosting companies should not be able to restrict content because of a feared lawsuit against someone using their service. Hosting companies need to be protected from such lawsuits so that people like Mohammad Mehdi Khalaji cannot take away people’s freedom of speech by threatening a lawsuit.

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The DFA-NCSL Challenge

Last week, I attended the National Conference of State Legislature (NCSL) annual meeting in Boston Massachusetts. It is a large gathering with over 9,000 people in attendance. This included many legislators, their staff, members of press and people attempting to influence state legislatures.

The State Government Affairs Council (SGAC) was there. They describe themselves as the premier national association for multi-state government affairs professionals of more than 150 major U.S. corporations, trade associations and service providers.

The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) was there. They say their “mission is to elect more Republicans at the state level, including Attorneys General, Lieutenant Governors and State Legislators.” I saw many State Representatives from Connecticut there.

Some of the first sessions I attended were discussions of communications policy sponsored by CTIA, the International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry. The wireless industry was well represented, but not the grassroots activists fighting for net neutrality.

It made me think, where was DFA? Well, to me, DFA isn’t the small group of people working up in Burlington, it is all of us who fight for fiscally conservative, socially liberal policies. I was there, as a member of DFA. I imagine there may have been others as well. But just because you weren’t there, doesn’t mean you can’t have an effect.

Here in Connecticut, there has been an effort to get people to take their State Reps to see Michael Moore’s Sicko. Have you contacted your State Rep and asked if they’ve seen Sicko? If they haven’t, have you invited them to go see it?

How about this: Call up your State Representative. Ask them if they attended NCSL. If they did, ask to get together with them and find out what sessions they attended. Find out what issues were important to them. If they are coming up with good issues, tell them you support them on those issues. If not, tell them why you disagree. Spend some time getting up to speed on the issues so that you can give them a perspective that might be different from SGAC, RSLC or CTIA.

Read through some of my posts about NCSL on Orient Lodge ahead of time to get a flavor for the meeting, and let me know what happens.

Let’s all get more involved in our state legislatures.

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Educational Opportunities in Second Life

The other day, a client asked me to speak with them about using Second Life as a training environment. They provide training through seminars and web based training and are considering expanding into Second Life.

We talked about using Second Life as a storefront and as a virtual seminar room. We talked about doing mixed reality conferences where the speakers addressed a real conference, but the video stream was piped into a virtual conference room. We talked about ways of handling interactions between the attendees of the real life conference and attendees of the virtual conference, including how to handle registrations, cancellations and refunds.

We talked about providing video on demand in Second Life, and linking Second Life to the companies website. We even spoke about creating machinima, videos of events in Second Life that could be used for the trainings.

We talked about the education information Second Life provides and about some of the more interesting education programs such as Idaho Bioterrorism Awareness and Preparedness Program's Play2Train.

We talked about an article by Anders Gronstedt in Training and Development magazine about the use of Second Life in the training and development industry.

Yet some of the best training opportunities are real life, or Second Life, and not the ones planned out in a training plan. When I got home, I found an event like that which had just occurred.

Since December, 2004, Ginko Finance has been a banking entity on Second Life. They had ATMs around Second Life, where you could deposit money. They paid a very generous interest rate of over 44% annualized. I put a little bit of the free Linden Dollars I had received into the account. I had even thought about changing some U.S. Dollars into Linden Dollars and depositing it in the account.

However, as the old adage goes, if it looks like it is too good to be true, it probably is. I didn’t see any way that this could be sustainable. They reached deposits in the range of 200,000,000 Linden Dollars. That is worth over half a million U.S. Dollars.

In a statement from Ginko Finance, they said,

As you probably already know, Ginko Financial has experienced some challenges in these last couple of weeks. Following the ban on gambling in Second Life we began experiencing a wave of withdrawals from Ginko Financial. This led the funds we keep in reserve for day to day use to be exhausted, which evolved into a full blown panic depleting even our last line of cash reserves and resulting in the current situation, with about L$50,000,000 queued up for withdrawal.

Most people never experience a run on a bank, or a liquidity crisis. Those who follow the market news may have been hearing about a liquidity crisis in the mortgage securities market, but it probably hasn’t affected them personally.

People in Second Life are unlikely to be investing in junk bonds, but that is exactly what has happened to some of the players.

After considerable thought, we have concluded that the only way forward from this is to convert, compulsorily, all customer deposits into a tradeable debt security called Ginko Perpetual Bonds. These bonds, listed on the World Stock Exchange ( www.wselive.com), will allow Ginko Financial to recover from recent events by removing all pressure from our cash reserves while providing accountholders with a way to cash out on an open market.

Last night, I visited WSE’s chat room where people were rapidly learning about trading. There were discussions about market orders and limit orders, and whether or not one should buy or sell the bonds at this point.

For me, it was fun. I read the research on various offerings. I bought and sold some of the bonds and put in some limit orders. I investigated the interface to see if there were any opportunities to gather and analyze data, or even to do some programmatic trading.

For others, it was much less fun. I met people who had earned over 600,000 Linden Dollars and had seen their savings go from around $2,000 down to $300. This was money they hoped to use to pay for a fun trip. Others had actually taken U.S. Dollars, converted them to Linden Dollars and seen their investments wiped out.

I feel sorry for the people who just received a $1,700 education in banking and investments that they had not been planning on. Yet I do hope that people take advantage of this as a great learning opportunity. When I checked last night, trading in Ginko Perpetual Bonds was making up about 85% of the trading volume. This is over a nine-fold increase in trading at WSE. Will WSE handle the growth in trading smoothly?

We shall see. According to press release on July 28th, they’ve already experienced, survived, and hopefully learned from a former employee that embezzled funds.

Will they add new features that will facilitate programmatic analysis, and perhaps even programmatic trading of securities, or the ability to create derivatives? I hope so.

I expect over the coming months, we shall see more unexpected and highly valuable learning experiences take place in Second Life and I look forward to participating in as many of them as possible.

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