Status

Welcome Back

It’s been a while, but I’m really excited to be using this space again… fun stuff ahead.

Consider Your Reliance on AI in Your Prepping

I’m not technically a public “prepper” but my friends and family know that I am very interested in things like food preps, gear preps, vehicle preps, water preps, cooking preps… well, I guess I’m a prepper.

This all stems from a massive flooding event here in Columbia, SC in 2015 when my partner Merianna was 9 months pregnant with our son. We got off easy compared to many in our community, but we had to go a couple of weeks without water from the faucet and a few days without power.

It was harrowing.

I’ve always been interested in outdoor gear and prepping as a concept, but I swore one day while driving around looking for overpriced bottles of water that I’d never put my family in that situation again.

Over the last seven years, I’ve gone through quite the transition to being more prepared for short and long term situations. So reading this raised very real alarm bells given how many of us operate…

According to Pew research, 97% of people in the US own smartphones. We might not all use them the same way, and not everyone has high-speed internet access all the time, but we all face the same danger: over-reliance.

The more dependent we become on AI, the harder it’ll be to reconnect with our unaugmented roots should the need ever arise.

Via The Next Web: My Weekend Without Internet

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Since I was in college (maybe before), I found the concept of pillows strange. So, I started sleeping without one. I’ve always primarily been a “stomach sleeper” (which is a benefit if I ever do contract Covid, I guess). My normal sleeping posture involves my head resting on my left arm face down with my right arm curled up so that my right hand is curled just below my chin.

I’m not sure why I have such an aversion to pillows. I’m not alone, evidently. King Henry VIII banned the use of soft pillows for anyone except pregnant women.

Maybe it’s that independent streak I have and my assurance that I shouldn’t have to rely on things like external pillows for comfort and sleeping posture if I can do it all on my own. Which seems to be a good metaphor for this time in our lives where we are all forced to reconsider what is important and what we rely on to make it through our days and nights. Whether that’s the camaraderie of a busy office space with our co-workers, or meals with friends, or opening night of a major movie in a crowded theater… our brains are undergoing cognitive loads that many of us aren’t realizing but definitely feeling the effects in our day-to-day walk through life.

But in times of change and disruption, the creative spark is made more available as our brains try to make sense of a new reality. Perhaps that what’s the pillow was supposed to prepare us for over the last 10,000 years or so that we’ve actively been using them as human beings. Learning to find comfort in the dark and mysterious time of night with all of its dragons and witches and spells while we give our brains time to defrag from a long day of processing being human.

Most of us aren’t spending our days gathering barley, millet, and emmer or stalking a herd of antelope hoping for a successful hunt to feed our families and appease our gods… but 2020 is weird. Give your brain time to rest and process at night whether you use a pillow or not. Dream up new avenues for your own creativity whether you’re looking for a business angle, a sermon message, or just a new hobby to replace Netflix binging.

What I’m Thinking About Today

At Tuesday’s hearing, Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, said the company would no longer make policy exceptions for Mr. Trump after he leaves office in January. During Mr. Trump’s time as a world leader, Twitter allowed him to post content that violated its rules, though it began adding labels to some of the tweets starting in May to indicate that the posts were disputed or glorified violence.

“If an account suddenly is not a world leader anymore, that particular policy goes away,” Mr. Dorsey said.

Well this out to be interesting…

This thing works like an iPad. That’s the best way I can describe it succinctly. One illustration I have been using to describe what this will feel like to a user of current MacBooks is that of chronic pain. If you’ve ever dealt with ongoing pain from a condition or injury, and then had it be alleviated by medication, therapy or surgery, you know how the sudden relief feels. You’ve been carrying the load so long you didn’t know how heavy it was. That’s what moving to this M1 MacBook feels like after using other Macs.

Instagram users’ ability to search is getting an upgrade. Today, the company announced that English-speaking users in six countries, including the UK, US, Ireland, and Canada, will be able to search the platform using keywords. Before today, they could only search for hashtags or accounts. So, for example, if you previously wanted to find “healthy recipes,” you’d only be able to search for posts that tagged #healthyrecipes or accounts with variations on “healthy recipes” in their name or bio. Now, however, Instagram will let people search the keywords themselves, meaning posts that feature healthy recipes should surface, even if the specific tag is missing.

This is super helpful for content creators in specific niches and should help elevate quality posts that otherwise get buried in heavily trafficked hashtags.

Well that’s interesting.

To be updated throughout the day

Monday November 16, 2020

This is something else…

Monday’s are always slightly (if not totally) chaotic here at home. Like many Americans, we’re homeschooling our children while working from home. After 8 months or so of this, we’ve gotten into a pretty good rhythm and everyone basically understands our schedules and roles. There are days when emergency client projects or calls or ZOOM meetings pop up alongside the occasional last-minute work emergency that throws off the routine, but for the most part we’re making our way through Covid-Times.

What’s fascinating for me are the institutions, businesses, and organizations that don’t express an understanding of the incredible amount of cognitive load that most of their employees or workers or volunteers are under. I’ve seen it with large businesses that I consult with, but especially churches.

There are a number of variables, but I’ve heard horror stories from many employees and pastors of churches (caveat that my partner Merianna is a pastor and the church where she serves has been incredible through all of this) whose congregants or boards or deacons are acting out of an “individualist” rather than “cooperative” model of messaging to staff and the church community.

We all want to go back to “normal” but that’s just not going to happen anytime soon. That’s especially true with Thanksgiving and the Holidays ahead of us. Vaccines are months, if not years, out and in the absence of leadership we’re going to have to rely on ourselves to make it through this Winter, the Spring, and probably the Summer of ’21.

In the meantime, think about your messaging if you’re a church or nonprofit. Think about intentional communication, and realize that there are public health professionals who are experts on this topic. We should listen to them (and not just our Facebook news feed and social media). Use messaging and marketing as an advantage. It’s the only advantage that many churches have these days. But it’s possible to survive and thrive in a pandemic as many healthy congregations are learning. Don’t wait for “normal” to return before your church faces reality. And be kind to your pastors and staffs.

What I’m Thinking About Today

You Still Need to Have the Conversation – Culture Study

“Maybe you can promise a big gathering next year, or hours this year on the day-of playing Among Us or just watching a movie together. You can use the health of your own children or your cousin or your grandparents as a cudgel. Just remember that the most affective appeal to an individualist is always going to be from the people they care about in their immediate sphere. A state-wide lockdown might not change their behavior. An emailed article certainly won’t. But you might.”

Very important post that you should read before Thanksgiving. Don’t enable or assume. Confront people with facts and care.

Squarespace’s New Feature Could Help Businesses Survive the Pandemic – Fast Company

The company is introducing what it calls Member Areas—special sections of customer websites that are restricted to people who’ve signed up for a membership, which can mean paying a regular subscription charge, coming up with a onetime fee, or simply creating a login. The goal is to give Squarespace customers a new way to offer content to their own customers and fans, whether that’s fitness instructors providing paid online classes during the coronavirus pandemic, writers offering regular newsletters to people who provide their email addresses, or chefs sharing virtual cookbooks with onetime purchasers.

Interesting move from Squarespace… we use the platform for a few client sites still (mostly small business and churches). I’m technically a certified Squarespace Developer, but I’m not a huge fan of designing or developing there. Many of our clients who insist on starting with Squarespace “because it’s cheaper” eventually make the jump to WordPress and our hosting packages (don’t get me started on Wix). All that said, I welcome these sorts of new opportunities for businesses and individuals to utilize their own sites for these sorts of features rather than having to use a 3rd party service like Patreon etc.

You can now embed Apple Podcasts on the web – TechCrunch

Apple is making it easier to discover and listen to podcasts via the web. The company announced today an Apple Podcasts embed web player is now available, allowing anyone — including creators, listeners or marketers — to generate embed codes for the over 1.5 million shows available across the Apple Podcasts service.

Good on Apple. You can now embed Thinking.FM on your own site!

New Zoom feature can alert room owners of possible Zoombombing disruptions – ZDNet

The new “At-Risk Meeting Notifier” Zoom feature scans the internet and alerts conference organizers when a link to their Zoom meeting has been posted online.

That’s helpful… should have been developed and deployed a few months back, Zoom.

Open source: Better solutions and a more inclusive society – Yoast Blog

Volvo designed the first three point belt design in the sixties. It is patented, but open for everyone to use. Also, Volvo allows open source access to its crash-research data.

Big believer in open source technology (and knowledge rights) here. Super interesting post.

Vikings unwittingly made their swords stronger by trying to imbue them with spirits – Big Think

To strengthen their swords, smiths used the bones of their dead ancestors and animals, hoping to transfer the spirit into their blades.

There’s a little bit of magic in all science.

To be updated throughout the day…

Friday, November 13, 2020

It’s been a week but still relevant:

Here in South Carolina, I’m seeing a mix of responses to the spiking Covid rates. Some of our friends (especially parents of young children) are full of despair and “over it” to put it lightly. I also have clients in-town who seemed confused when I say “No, I can’t come to your office for that meeting. We’re still hunkering down and trying to avoid indoor spaces when possible.” But, there’s a general feeling that we know the worst is yet to come and people are taking masks seriously (distancing not so much) in public spaces and in grocery stores etc. Let’s keep it up. We won’t see a vaccine for months (if that), so it’s on us to not have “pandemic fatigue.”

Business wise, there are many small businesses, nonprofits, and churches (big and small) that I know are hurting. I find it astonishing we don’t have something like a second federal stimulus package. To leave it up to cities and states seems like a complete hand-washing from our federal representatives. We need another stimulus package. I’ve done more pro-bono work for church and nonprofit clients in the last couple of months than I should have, but it’s heartbreaking to hear the constant stories of pure budget fallouts (along with volunteer hours etc).

Be kind to each other out there.

Today’s big puzzle has been trying to figure out how to display post time (not just date) on a WordPress post… there has to be a PHP function for that and I’m completely blanking on it. I’ll blame it on being Friday. But I’ll figure it out.

What I’m Thinking About Today:

Maybe it’s the pandemic and my Aunt passing away last week, but death and dying has been on my mind a good deal recently. I had an email yesterday about my life insurance policy, so that didn’t help change my brain. We have so much work to do with rethinking and reconditioning how we think about the process of death in our country. Particularly from the balance between spiritual development and scientific/medical understandings, there seems to be a real need for people to find balance. I highly recommend reading the Emanuel piece above. Good stuff.

Big Sur hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts. I always caution friends and clients these days to wait a little while before installing the new iOS or iPadOS or macOS update because Apple has proven time and again that launch day is a precarious time if you’re running updates. It’s a fantastic operating system, though. Once things get ironed out, make sure you update if you have a modern Mac (you know, if you don’t mind your computer phoning home and compromising your security and all).

It turns out that in the current version of the macOS, the OS sends to Apple a hash (unique identifier) of each and every program you run, when you run it. Lots of people didn’t realize this, because it’s silent and invisible and it fails instantly and gracefully when you’re offline, but today the server got really slow and it didn’t hit the fail-fast code path, and everyone’s apps failed to open if they were connected to the internet.

Oof. Must read for the “APPLE IS MORE SECURE THAN OTHER OPERATING SYSTEMS!” crowd and the rest of us.

Radiant now sells a stripped-down Samsung smartwatch as a social distance monitoring tool. When an employee wears the watch, it constantly searches for other similar devices worn by other employees, and estimates their distance based on how strong that signal is. If a strong signal is detected for more than 15 minutes, the interaction is recorded and uploaded to the cloud for the company to reference later if a worker tests positive. In addition, an employer can opt to use the device to monitor the specific location of individual employees.

I don’t ever want to work in an office building “for” a company again. I fear this sort of thing will become much more mainstream during and (eventually) after Covid.

The year 2020 has been kind to Turchin, for many of the same reasons it has been hell for the rest of us. Cities on fire, elected leaders endorsing violence, homicides surging—­­to a normal American, these are apocalyptic signs. To Turchin, they indicate that his models, which incorporate thousands of years of data about human history, are working. (“Not all of human history,” he corrected me once. “Just the last 10,000 years.”) He has been warning for a decade that a few key social and political trends portend an “age of discord,” civil unrest and carnage worse than most Americans have experienced. In 2010, he predicted that the unrest would get serious around 2020, and that it wouldn’t let up until those social and political trends reversed. Havoc at the level of the late 1960s and early ’70s is the best-case scenario; all-out civil war is the worst.

Turchin is certainly a polarizing figure. I admit that I’m a passive fan of megahistories (being a mostly-white male and all), but I do think there’s something to the idea of applying mathematics to history and liberal arts. Maybe I’ve read too much Asimov.

I can’t stress this enough and tell my clients this all the time… make sure you have your Google My Business listing set up and connected to a GMail or Google Suite/Workplace account that you trust and will keep for a while. Don’t just assume that you don’t have to do this. Google is placing a high amount of energy, time, and resources to developing and promoting My Business, and if you run or are a part of a business, group, church, organization etc… make sure to claim and keep up with yours.

In this Best of Whiteboard Friday edition, Tom Capper explains how the sessions metric in Google Analytics works, several ways that it can have unexpected results, and as a bonus, how sessions affect the time on page metric (and why you should rethink using time on page for reporting).

Good video here on Sessions in Google Analytics… my clients typically are suprised when I show them how useful having an understanding of Sessions can be for their overall digital marketing campaigns.

The platform saw a spike in users, doubling from roughly 4.5 million members last week to about 8 million this week, and surging to 4 million active devices from 500,000 two weeks ago, according to Parler chief operating officer Jeffrey Wernick. He added that daily active devices are up approximately tenfold and session growth is up 20 times on the app.

I’ve been monitoring Parler (Twitter alternative), MeWe (Facebook alternative), and Rumble’s (YouTube alternative) growth over the last few months. There’s also banned.video that was created by InfoWars / Alex Jones after he was banned from most mainstream social media platforms. The growth on all of these “conservative-friendly” social platforms is astonishing and a sign of virality. I know a number of prepper and Q themed groups jumped over to these and that’s only accelerating. Will they have sticking power? That depends on a number of variables from how the transition of administrations occurs, whether Parler figures out its own internal bugs and advertising, and if Trump manages to congeal a media empire and stay relevant in the coming months.

To be updated throughout the day

Maybe George Lucas Was Right

I’ve been rewatching Star Wars with my 4 year old son the last few weeks. We started with A New Hope > Empire > Jedi then worked our way back to Phantom Menace and now Attack of the Clones (with Revenge of the Sith then Clone Wars after that).

I have to admit… after the debacle that was Episodes 7-9, the Prequels actually hold up. I haven’t touched these movies in years but they feel more familiar now.

Maybe George Lucas was right.

Episode 160: Gesticulating Wildly

This week we take a look back on a fascinating week of religion news and discuss how to talk to people who don't think the same way you do before closing out with a little history lesson on Acts 4-5.

Support Thinking Religion

Links:

Episode 158: We Don’t Talk About That in Church

This week, Revs. Merianna Neely Harrelson and Sam Harrelson discuss canonization, the politics of commentaries, Jonah's Whale, interpretation history, Doomsday Clock, Harrowing of Hell, and masturbation lessons from Sunday School.

Support Thinking Religion

Links:

Episode 157: Talking To Our Younger Selves about Religion

Sam is joined by The Rev. Merianna Neely Harrelson to discuss how she approaches Acts in church Bible studies, canonization, ascension vs resurrection vs transfiguration, the problem with a seminary education, and 4 listener questions.

Music from https://filmmusic.io
"Ancient Rite" by Kevin MacLeod (https://incompetech.com)
License: CC BY (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Support Thinking Religion

Links:

Episode 156: You Miss 100% Of The Shots You Don’t Take – Wayne Gretzky – Michael Scott

Sam is joined by Matthew Klippenstein this week to discuss fracturing of denominations, late dating of biblical texts, what an American has to learn from a Canadian, why the Dalai Lama might want to consider the lilies, and why ACTS might be the best book in the New Testament.

Special Guest: Matthew Klippenstein.

Support Thinking Religion

Links:

Episode 155: Back to Weekly

Big news in this one… we’re coming back weekly for 2020! Starting around New Year’s Day, we’ll be back with all new guests and voices (and voices of guests) as well as some fun book giveaways, and a number of insider downloads drawing from the show’s past (and present and future).

Merry Christmas from Merianna, Sam, and the Harrelson family and more soon!

(We also have an exciting new podcast studio that we'll be discussing)…

Support Thinking Religion

Sunday April 28, 2019

We really do forget that Easter isn’t just a day but actually a season in the liturgical Christian calendar. It would be like assigning all of Lent to Ash Wednesday. There’s a reason Easter is the longest season in the church calendar… practice resurrection.

Blue Ball in the Sky

I don’t remember when or why but about 2 years ago we threw this sticky blue ball onto the ceiling of our dining room. It’s been there ever since fighting a constant battle with gravity and friction thanks to the miracle of modern polymers. It’s also become part of our family and dinner routine. It’s going to be a sad day when it falls.

Saturday is Prepping Restock Day

It’s part silly, part therapeutic, and part philosophical but I like to tear down my bags and carry items every weekend and make sure I have what we need and I know where it is. It also helps to process what we don’t need and take those items out of the tins, packs, and bags that make up our daily carry and supply lines. Good metaphor for life. Biblical even.