Screen Addiction is a Generational Complaint

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The new grandparent’s dilemma, then, is both real and horribly modern. How, without coming out and saying it, do you tell that kid that you have things you want to say to them, or to give them, and that you’re going to die someday, and that they’re going to wish they’d gotten to know you better? Is there some kind of curiosity gap trick for adults who have become suddenly conscious of their mortality?

Source: Why Grandma’s Sad – The Awl

Recommended response to the alarmist piece in the NY Times this weekend regarding “screen addiction” and children.

The Reddit Revolt and Social Silos

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The sudden revolt has thrown one of the world’s most popular sites into chaos. It wasn’t immediately clear why Taylor, who joined the company in 2013, was fired. But the response by moderators was as swift as it was ruthless. Within hours, the moderators of /r/IAmA took the subreddit private, effectively shutting it down. That started a cascade of moderators shuttering dozens of subreddits—/r/askreddit, /r/todayilearned, and /r/pics among them—that is still growing, crippling a site with some 160 million users. Many more subreddits, including /r/science, have expressed solidarity with Taylor but remained open.

Source: Reddit Is Revolting | WIRED

Reddit is in a state of turmoil from the firing of a popular staffer as well as a continual breakdown of communication from company officers and subreddit moderators. Reddit itself functions primarily due to the hard work of popular and niche subreddit moderators who laboriously spend time curating and improving the experience of the “internet’s front page.”

What’s interesting to note here is that moderators from hundreds of subreddits are using this as an opportunity to voice their frustration with how the company supports and enables them to do what they do. There’s also ongoing questions and antagonism between community leaders and the company’s new CEO due to her attempts to limit harassing and defamatory posts by users.

Reddit’s distributed model lends itself to such rebellion. Similar things happened to Digg when it began its decline, which gave Reddit a boost of audience. There are cautionary tales of dozens of forums undergoing similar events and eventual departure of key users and members as well.

What does this mean for other social silos such as Facebook or the post-open Twitter or Google+? In my mind, one of the key benefits to the path that Facebook has taken with making key features into standalone services or apps (Messenger, Pages, Instagram, Whatsapp etc) or Twitter with Vine is that these social networks are now more insulated from being left behind due to a mass exit based on inner turmoil.

Much like NASCAR fans decrying the sports’ and associated tracks’ latest announcement asking for Confederate flags to be left at home and, passionate people who feel entitled due to a conception of buy-in can feel betrayed and threaten to leave. Social spaces on the web are built to fail, and companies have to both diversify and continue to attract a membership that is comfortable with evolution.

 

The problems with ebook subscription models

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Way more people watch TV and movies and listen to music than read books or magazines. That’s why we’re starting to see that Netflix is Netflix, Spotify is Spotify, and ebook and magazine subscription sites are, well, something else.

Source: What Scribd’s growing pains mean for the future of digital content subscription models » Nieman Journalism Lab

You have to be careful of those romance novel readers.

I’ve been fascinated by the concepts of ebook monetization since self-publishing and ebook publishing became a bona fide option for mainstream publishers and authors. It’s one of the reasons I’m excited about what Merianna is doing with Harrelson Press and the ultimate direction we’ve mapped out there (more on that later).

However, it’s clear that a subscription type model from Scribd aren’t the best way forward. The ebook industry is a weird and complicated beast as companies from Google to Apple to Amazon have discovered in their various attempts to become the “Netflix” of this respective market.

Regardless, publishers are going to be the ones that have to change and adapt to make sense of this newish form of reading and producing/consuming content. We’ve seen how the music industry seemingly collapsed during the last decade when singles become the prime selling vehicle, replacing albums. Now, we’re seeing a period of consolidation by the major labels and partners such as Apple or Spotify to allow for the labels to make the most profits from agreements while artists are paid fractions of a cent per streamed play. That will change as artists figure out the game and we see more Taylor Swift’s pushing their weight around the industry.

I don’t think we’ll see a similar contraction / consolidation in the book publishing universe because the tools for making and consuming books are more democratized and the industry is ripe for disruption.

 

Thomas Jefferson Was Obsessed with Mammoths

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“For most of his life, Thomas Jefferson was obsessed with mammoths. (More correctly, he was obsessed with American mastodons, tree-chewing cousins of mammoths that lived in the Northern part of the continent—but at the time, he and the rest of the world thought they were mammoths.) He liked theorizing about mammoths, he liked talking about mammoths, he liked making his friends rack up exorbitant postage bills in order to mail him mammoth teeth. And for decades, from the mid-1760s onward, he was particularly dedicated to one surprisingly high-stakes activity—convincing a famous French naturalist that mammoths were still out there, tearing up the wild West with their tusks.”

Source: Thomas Jefferson Built This Country On Mastodons

I had no idea.

Our Week in Washington D.C.; Or How do I explain to my daughters how important this all is?

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“The Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the United States Friday in a closely divided ruling that will stand as a milestone in its 226-year history.

The justices ruled 5-4 that states cannot deny gay men and lesbians the same marriage rights enjoyed for thousands of years by opposite-sex couples. Within days if not hours, the decision is expected to trigger same-sex marriages in states that still ban the practice.

“They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” Justice Anthony Kennedy said in his 28-page ruling. “The Constitution grants them that right.”

Source: Supreme Court strikes down bans on same-sex marriage

Saving this for posterity because I’ve been in Washington D.C. this week with my wife, our soon-to-be-born baby boy, and my young daughters (age 7 and 5). While we’ve been doing the touristy stuff, we’ve also been in the midst of two major Supreme Court decisions on “Obamacare” and marriage equality.

My girls have gotten to walk past the Supreme Court and stand with us while we took the chants and the applause in after these rulings. I didn’t hide my tears.

What a week. As the Confederate flags come down across Southern states and my own beloved South Carolina after the terrible massacre of innocents in Charleston, we see the rise of something different in our country.

Here’s to new beginnings based on love, reconciliation, and the bridging of divides that those in power have used to try to keep us apart.

Here’s to the future United States and a country that is better for my daughters and son than the one I grew up with.

Amen.

 

Bernie Sanders Gains on Hillary Clinton in Bloomberg Early-State Polling

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Bernie Sanders is gaining on Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire, with an appeal as an issue-oriented protest vehicle potentially capable of slowing any coronation of the popular front-runner.

Source: Bernie Sanders Gains on Hillary Clinton in Bloomberg Early-State Polling – Bloomberg Politics

I’m really hoping that Sanders can convince Democratic primary voters that he’s not a socialist (that seems to be the drawback) and bring some competition to the seeming inevitability of another Clinton vs Bush race.

To support an oligarchy seems very much against the spirit of what I felt today while standing in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol here in Washington D.C. and pondering how George Washington could have been king.

I’m still not completely sure on my own allegiance to a particular candidate, but issues such as this are troublesome to me.

“Losing My Religion”

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losing

“If people do that and remain or become evangelical, I’m OK with that.  So long as they don’t hurt and exploit others, especially the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized.   If they remain or become Catholic, AOK.  If they remain or become Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, pagan, agnostic, atheist, or anything else, I really don’t care.  I care only that (a) they think about it and (b) they actively love others and do good to others and help others in need. My sense is that this is becoming more of a standard view in this country.   Which is why traditional Christianity is losing people and the non-affiliated are gaining.   Whether it will continue to trend that way or not – heaven knows.”

Source: Losing Religion in America – Christianity in Antiquity (CIA): The Bart Ehrman Blog

I’m not losing my religion (at least I don’t think I am), but that song popped into my head as I read (and agreed with) Prof. Ehrman’s thoughts here.

In the conversations about Pew Research’s report on the erosion of Christianity in the US that I’ve had with friends and family (such as the recorded ones here with Thomas), I’ve encountered a number of different “mansplainings” and explanations for why people in our country are “losing their religion.” As Ehrman points to in his post here, a number of them have to deal with the assumption that those who are leaving mainline or evangelical (which is mainline here in South Carolina) Christianity are doing so because they weren’t necessarily “true” or “real” believers to begin with.

I find that explanation unfair and, quite frankly, disturbing.

On the other side are the explanations from my more progressive or “neo-atheist” friends that point to the foibles of Christianity’s latent and explicit hypocrisy or the Bible’s troublesome ability to interact with modern notions of history or science and declare that “it’s about time” people started waking up to the realization that our fairy tales are bogus and there is no old white man in the sky who is going to either zap us with lightning, hear our prayers, or deliver us from evil.

I find that worldview just as disturbing as the former one.

My faith is weird.

I appreciate science. I love science. Heck, I’ve taught physical science to unruly and amazing 13 and 14 year olds off an on over the last decade of my life. I also love history. Particularly, ancient history and archaeology fascinate me.

Both of those studies, which some would say should degrade or at least invalidate something as quaint and reproachable as faith in fairy tales, challenge my own notion of self and my own well-thought-out beliefs in a way that encourages me to keep on down the path.

Much like Dali, I realize that beings and things are made of energy, not solid mass.

That potential glimpsing of something beyond our own earthly 80 or so years (at least here in 2015 middle class caucasian America) is what draws me to science and what drives my faith.

That extended realization of a split second peek into this universe of energy way beyond what our eyeballs connected to our evolving ape brains via a short cord we call the optic nerve (on mine there is plaque) can ever hope to process is what drives us further out into the cosmic ocean, as Sagan said.

Faith that is based or driven by the need for a moral structure or the need for a guiding hand to be told what to think or do is what is eroding, and will continue to erode, in our country. I have a set of assumptions and guidelines that define my moral and ethical code because of my glimpsings of the universe beyond my diseased optic nerve. That is the basis of my faith. Not the other way around.

We are truly magnificent and amazing creatures, designed by time and weathered by the millennia to survive and thrive on this pale blue dot. But we are also selfish, and capable of great evils. Religion doesn’t save us or secure us from those primal instincts. In many ways, religion is the prime motivator for those evils that we all to easily commit whether intentionally or unintentionally.

We shouldn’t shy away from that reality and speak truth to those who would use religion as a tool to cause oppression of those of different genders, races, sexual persuasions, color spectrum preferences, nationalities, Apple / PC / Android fan-ism, hair color, eye color, allergies, or carbon family basis. Religion is the invitation to participate with the universe in some way that we can never understand. “We know we are approaching the grandest of mysteries,” and that shouldn’t be taken lightly or used as a tool to tell others that they cannot be leaders in our religion or they cannot love another person based on the makeup of sexual anatomy etc.

Our human understandings based on supposedly innerant manuscripts handled countless times by wise and unwise transmitters do not cause us greater communion with the divine if we are seeking to prove our own confused interpretations of the messages being transmitted by the electrochemical computer we call our brains. Otherwise, as Gamaliel warns us across the ages, “if this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail.”

Beautiful Bride at Four Months 

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She’s finally showing :)

Your Pregnancy | 16 Weeks: “Get ready for a growth spurt. In the next few weeks, your baby will double his weight and add inches to his length. Right now, he’s about the size of an avocado: 4 1/2 inches long (head to rump) and 3 1/2 ounces. His legs are much more developed, his head is more erect than it has been, and his eyes have moved closer to the front of his head. His ears are close to their final position, too. The patterning of his scalp has begun, though his locks aren’t recognizable yet. He’s even started growing toenails. And there’s a lot happening inside as well. For example, his heart is now pumping about 25 quarts of blood each day, and this amount will continue to increase as your baby continues to develop.”

Exciting!