WordPress vs Wix

Finally catching up on this (latest) dust-up between WordPress and Wix…

First, go get them, Matt. Good points here as always. As someone who buids websites for clients (especially our nonprofit, community group, and religious organization partners), it’s always frustrating when a group comes to us after trying to build their site on Wix and spending way too much money and time on that platform.

Second, it’s good to see these old-fashioned blogger battles again. Let’s make the blogosphere great again with drama and self-hosted call-outs.

Wix is a for-profit company with a valuation that peaked at around 20 billion dollars, and whose business model is getting customers to pay more and more every year and making it difficult to leave or get a refund. (Don’t take my word for it, look at their investor presentations.) They are so insecure that they are also the only website creator I’m aware of that doesn’t allow you to export your content, so they’re like a roach motel where you can check in but never check out. Once you buy into their proprietary stack you’re locked in, which even their support documentation admits:

Source: Matt Mullenweg – Unlucky in Cards

Editing the WordPress Footer Text

Handy walkthru here… if you do anything on WordPress, this is one of those questions that you’ll need an answer for sooner or later:

For those wondering, the footer is the bottom part of your website that appears after the content area. This can be a copyright statement, the year, contact details, branding, social media icons, privacy policy links, disclaimers, and so many other things you want it to be.

Source: How to Edit the Footer in WordPress

The World is Too Much With Us

Iambic pentameter courtesy of Petrarch still rings true…

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;

The winds that will be howling at all hours,

And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,

For this, for everything, we are out of tune;

It moves us not.—Great God! I’d rather be

A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

William Wordsworth

In Honor of Beloved Netbooks

I absolutely adored my eee PC 701 and used it all the time. I’ll add a gallery here later.

There were two products that arrived in 2007 that fundamentally changed computing: one, of course, was the iPhone. The second, obviously more important product was the $399 Eee PC 701. It originally ran a custom Linux operating system that reviewers loved (Laptop Mag’s Mark Spoonauer said it was “ten times simpler to use than any Windows notebook”) and was generally heralded as a new kind of computer with tremendous mass appeal. Spoonauer: “Pound for pound, the best value-priced notebook on the planet.”

Source: Let’s remember netbooks – The Verge

Too Much Choice and Not Enough Solutions

Whether you’re telling the world about your church, selling products or sharing experiences, your website is probably not doing the job you think you hired it to do.

I’m a big fan of the “jobs to be done” philosophy of “customer experience” marketing (again, doesn’t matter if you think you have “customers” or not… you do… time is the biggest asset we all have).

Your church / business / group’s website, social media, and all of its messaging should be focused on helping your “customers” identified problems instead of just giving headshots of your directors.

Good post here laying out the issues of too many choices and not any real solutions:

People respond best to a small handful of tailored choices presented to them on a silver platter.That’s why each page should have one Call to Action, and it should be tailored to the content the user chose to read/watch/listen to.That’s why you should intentionally design content marketing funnels.That’s why you should have landing pages for specific products and specific audiences.

Source: Why Don’t People Buy: Too Much Choice – Stacking the Bricks

Don’t mess with The Art Squad…

Two members of the art squad’s archaeological unit were on assignment in Brussels when they took a walk after work in the Sablon neighborhood that is known for its antiques shops. They spotted a marble statue in a shop that they suspected was from Italy, and confirmed their suspicions when they cross-referenced the work with a database of known stolen antiquities, the statement said.

Source: Off-duty Italy art cops find looted statue in Belgian shop – The Washington Post

Do fish feel pain?

Puts a different spin on that fishing trip after I’ve always told myself “it’s ok, fish don’t feel pain” (to paraphrase Kurt Cobain)…

I was the first to identify the existence of nociceptors in a fish, the rainbow trout, in 2002. These are specialised receptors for detecting injury-causing stimuli, and their physiology is strikingly similar to those found in mammals, including humans. Since then, my laboratory and others across the world have shown that the physiology, neurobiology, molecular biology and brain activity that many fish species show in response to painful stimuli is comparable to mammals.

Source: There is ample evidence that fish feel pain | Fish | The Guardian

Maya Angelou’s Partnership with Hallmark

I’d forgotten about this completely… fascinating read:

Billy Collins, then U.S. Poet Laureate and a fellow Random House writer, questioned Angelou’s partnership with Hallmark, the largest manufacturer of greeting cards in the United States and, among the literati, commonly associated with trite expressions.

“It lowers the understanding of what poetry actually can do,” Collins said to the Associated Press. “Hallmark cards has always been a common phrase to describe verse that is really less than poetry because it is sentimental and unoriginal.”

Source: Why Maya Angelou Partnered with Hallmark | The National Endowment for the Humanities

One of my fav hippos from the Middle Kingdom

Poor little fella’s legs, though…

Each of the sculpted hippo’s legs was ritually broken in order to render it harmless in the afterlife. In ancient Egypt herds of hippos were a constant threat to farmers’ fields. The first pharaohs hunted hippos in the marshes and eventually drove them far south into Upper Egypt. Hippos became associated with chaos, and the hunt for hippos became a metaphor for how the pharaohs of ancient Egypt could conquer evil.

Source: Hippopotamus | Saint Louis Art Museum

Why not just write on your own blog and monetize there?

I get the allure of Substack and applaud the move to decentralized platforms, but why not write on your own blog if your goal is independence and direct interaction with your own audience?

It’s not that difficult.

So many more benefits to creating in your own space, on your own domain, with your own platform…

And despite a handful of departures over politics, that wave is growing for Substack. The writers moving there full time in recent days include not just Mr. Lavery, but also the former Yahoo News White House correspondent Hunter Walker, the legal writer David Lat and the columnist Heather Havrilesky, who told me she will be taking Ask Polly from New York Magazine to “regain some of the indie spirit and sense of freedom that drew me to want to write online in the first place.”

Source: Why We’re Freaking Out About Substack – The New York Times

Universe as a self-learning computer

The researchers explain the universe as a learning system by invoking machine learning systems. Just like we can teach machines to perform unfolding functions over time, that is, to learn, the laws of the universe are essentially algorithms that do work in the form of learning operations.

Source: Physicists working with Microsoft think the universe is a self-learning computer

Muons’ Magnetic Moment

Evidence is mounting that a tiny subatomic particle called a muon is disobeying the laws of physics as we thought we knew them, scientists announced on Wednesday.

The best explanation, physicists say, is that the muon is being influenced by forms of matter and energy that are not yet known to science, but which may nevertheless affect the nature and evolution of the universe. The new work, they said, could eventually lead to a breakthrough in our understanding of the universe more dramatic than the heralded discovery in 2012 of the Higgs boson, a particle that imbues other particles with mass.

Source: Finding From Particle Research Could Break Known Laws of Physics – The New York Times

Signal’s Crypto Problem

Similar thoughts on Signal’s cryptocurrency announcement yesterday to Diehl’s post here… (side note: I wish more people still used blogs as their social outlet for these types of thoughts):

Signal users are overwhelmingly tech savvy consumers and we’re not idiots. Do they think we don’t see through the thinly veiled pump and dump scheme that’s proposed? It’s an old scam with a new face.

Via Stephen Diehl – Et tu, Signal?

Hauntology and Valhalla

Like many who went through college and then grad-school in the religion / literature / philosophy circles, I’ve read and pondered my share of Derrida and the consequences of ontology on our “demon-haunted world” … another reason I’ve absolutely loved playing AC Valhalla (about 125 hours in at this point since picking it up over the Holidays).

A pun coined by French philosopher Jacques Derrida in the early ’90s, hauntology refers to the study of nonexistence and unreality (so the opposite of ontology). Contemporary philosopher Mark Fisher makes extensive use of this concept, describing hauntology in his book The Weird and Eerie as “the agency of the virtual … that which acts without (physically) existing.”

For me, there’s no greater example of this than in Valhalla’s ruins. While open-world games are often dominated by landscape, mirroring the history of art where scenic oil paintings—once considered inferior—grew into a position of relative dominance, the ruin has seen a similar ascendency. Just as Romantic poets mulled over the allure of rivers and mountains, a passion for ancient ruins bloomed too, with painters like J. M. W. Turner and John Constable touring Britain in search of architectural wreckage among the rolling hills.

— Read on www.wired.com/story/assassins-creed-valhalla-eerie-english-landscapes/

So Long, and Thanks for All the Krill

Perhaps they’re trying to tell us something, Like the dolphins who do a double-backward somersault through a hoop while whistling the Star Spangled Banner, the whales may be sending us a message that we’re misinterpreting as an adorably sophisticated trick. The oceans are warming, the seas are rising, and maybe—just maybe—the whales have had enough. They’ve gathered as many young humpbacks as possible to come together and send one final message: so long, and thanks for all the krill. Or maybe they’re talking to a giant space probe. Who knows.

Source: Humpback whales are organizing in huge numbers, and no one knows why

Time to update your Exchange Server

If your company or organization uses Microsoft Exchange for email, you’re going to want to run the latest update…

At least 30,000 organizations across the United States — including a significant number of small businesses, towns, cities and local governments — have over the past few days been hacked by an unusually aggressive Chinese cyber espionage unit that’s focused on stealing email from victim organizations, multiple sources tell KrebsOnSecurity. The espionage group is exploiting four newly-discovered flaws in Microsoft Exchange Server email software, and has seeded hundreds of thousands of victim organizations worldwide with tools that give the attackers total, remote control over affected systems.

Source: At Least 30,000 U.S. Organizations Newly Hacked Via Holes in Microsoft’s Email Software — Krebs on Security

Being baptist (Lenten Reflection on 1 Peter 3:18-22)

There was a dream and one day I could see it; Like a bird in a cage I broke in And demanded that somebody free it And there was a kid with a head full of doubt; So I’ll scream ’til I die; And the last of those bad thoughts are finally out.

I’m baptist. That’s a quirky self-identification these days. However, it’s one that is a core part of who I am. Along the way, I was ordained by a wonderful congregation. So I’m a Reverend baptist. But we push for the priesthood of all believers, so Rev. Sam Harrelson seems superfluous.

I wasn’t necessarily born into being baptist. I had choice and made decisions along the way. MaNy of those choices are why I’m probably not a full time pastor in some congregation in Rhode Island or North Carolina right now at age 42. My family started attending church somewhere around my 12th-13th birthday. We ended up at Little Bethel Baptist Church in Mullins, SC as that’s where a number of our family members and family friends attended. Most of my friends growing up were either Presbyterian or Methodist (including my high school girlfriend). My Aunt Lib and Uncle Herbert were also staunchly Methodist. They were thrilled when I went off to Wofford College, being that it is tightly associated with the United Methodist Church and still produces many fine and upright Methodist pastors in the 21st Century.

While at Wofford, I eschewed the Baptist Student Union for the more progressive theology (and alcohol) friendly Wesleyan Fellowship. I changed my major from Chemistry / Computer Science to Religion sophomore year and worked my way to deciding that I’d attend Yale University Divinity School. My Wofford Religion professors were all good Methodists as was the beloved College Chaplain (obviously). Rev. Skinner urged me a number of times to join a Methodist church and go off to Yale with the intention of being a Methodist minister or academic or some combination in-between.

My beloved roommate was a Lutheran-turned Methodist (now turned Lutheran… or maybe Greek Orthodox?) who would depart to a Methodist seminary after our graduation. Somehow, he lived with me for four years and was there for the many late night conversations we’d have about “going Catholic” after attending a moving Mass at St. Peter’s or perhaps exploring the monastic lifestyle after drinking too many beers at a monastery in Salzburg. We still have many of those conversations late at night after our children have fallen asleep and our minds wander in the darkness. My fiancé at the time was going off to a Methodist seminary herself and in many ways, my reluctance to switch teams led to our eventual breakup. She’s now a fine and upstanding Methodist minister.

Surprisingly to myself (and Rev. Skinner), I declared myself “Baptist (Southern)” on my Yale Divinity application. For some reason, they admitted me. I think it was partly out of pity and partly out of amusement.

I was a fish out of water in New Haven and quickly regretted that I hadn’t taken up Rev. Skinner’s admonition to become Methodist. There were no polity classes for Southern Baptists at Yale Div, so they lumped me into a very welcoming but coldly New Englandly American Baptist group. I learned the ins-and-outs of American Baptist tradition and found it very similar to the Methodist kudzu that surrounded my baptist trunk. The professor was a Pastor of a local American Baptist congregation and urged me to come visit with them and see if I’d be interested in becoming American Baptist. I thought about it, but ended up wandering across Whitney Ave from my apartment to a stately and very New Haven-y United Church of Christ on most Sundays for service. I was surprised to find their minister was a female and self-identified LBTQ. There were rainbow flags. Sermons included social justice themes. Depictions of Jesus were all non-white (and some non-male). It was 2000 and I felt my world was changing rapidly.

I almost joined the UCC. I identified that church as my “home church” in polity classes and became this enigma trapped inside of a riddle with my Yale Div classmates. “I thought you were a Baptist?” was a question I often heard as we discussed a theological point over coffee. Oddly enough, it was there at Yale and in Connecticut that I discovered why I self-identified as baptist (and rekindled my love of NASCAR and wearing cowboy boots). I dove into the history of Baptists and Anabaptists and Baptists in America. I wrote papers explaining the Southern Baptist conservative takeover in light of 1970’s eschatological theologies and political maneuverings with Revelation as the anchor text. I read as much as I could about the various responses that Baptists had in the North and the South to the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s. I traveled to NYC by train every year for the Martin Luther King Jr. Service at Riverside Church (famous anchor Baptist church were MLK Jr had preached). The more I studied being baptist, the more I appreciated the complicated history of the movement(s) and the nuances of this particular quirky expression of faith.

For me, personally, being baptist became a philosophical thought technology as much as a walk of faith. I realized I could attend a UCC or Methodist church and still “be baptist” without compromising those deeply held and recently uncovered historical kernels I’d just discovered in the musty but exhilarating tight corners of the 13th floor of Yale’s Sterling Library that seemed to swallow readers whole as one ventured through the stacks.

After Yale, I moved back to South Carolina and found myself teaching Middle School Science at an Independent school (as one does). I loved teaching even though I was back to my days of studying chemistry rather than theology. I let it slip that I’d been to Divinity School and identified myself as a Baptist during a few conversations. Turned out that the Math teacher on my team was married to the head of the state Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. She took me under her wing and I found myself attending a CBF church and discussing ministry again with the Senior Pastor.

A couple of years later, I was off to Gardner-Webb Divinity School for another go at being a baptist in theological studies. This time, I would be surrounded by other Cooperative Baptists and Southern Baptists and Missionary Baptists in the context of the unique culture of South-Central North Carolina. I met professors there who pulled and tugged at my conception of baptist and encouraged me to dig deeper. I’m still friends with many of them today. It was a wonderful time to be at Gardner-Webb because of the strong academics and collegial atmosphere. There were young people straight from college looking to become pastors. There were pastors in their 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s who were looking to complete a seminary degree and finalize their MDiv (not always a requirement to be a baptist pastor here in the South). The school was diverse in thought, race, gender, and expressions. I appreciated my time there and look back on it as an experience that helped define my own conception of being baptist and myself in a way that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. I finally might take up a calling to become a pastor, I often thought on the long drives from Asheville to Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs, NC.

Then, my mentor there unexpectedly passed away at the young age of 40 and I felt all of that warmness turned cool. He had guided me through Gardner-Webb and many aspects of life over the previous two years. He was patient with my procrastination and encouraging of my righteous indignation. We often talked of baptist-as-a-philosophy and he shared his passion of Jewish-Baptist relation with us. For him to be gone from my life so suddenly and completely was a major hole I couldn’t patch. I was on the “preaching circuit” around Western and Central North Carolina, preaching in various sizes (and styles) of Baptist churches most weekends. There were a few job offers and interviews. I came close to taking one pastor position in particular. But I was still grieving and that clouded what should have been easy decisions about my future. I lasted until the end of that year but decided not to finish my last semester of study and go back to the Middle School classroom to teach.

I had another great experience in the classroom while also working on the side to rekindle my consulting business. I was able to quell that still small voice calling me to something theological by podcasting with my friend about religion, writing papers and sermons no one would read, and having long conversations with myself on drives between Spartanburg and Asheville. But after 4 more years in the classroom, I knew it was time to hang up the bow ties and try my hand one last time to finish the MDiv I had started years ago.

My business was taking off with a number of high profile local and regional clients. I had a new girlfriend that was amazing and encouraged me to pursue my theological side more often. Things seemed inevitable. I submitted my admission papers (re-admission?) back to Gardner-Webb and planned to continue building my business while attending the last few classes and maybe picking up some preaching gigs on the weekends. Everything seemed to finally be on track and inevitable. For the first time since I began this journey with God and the Bible and my own baptist faith and message back as a 14 year old, I felt that things were coming full circle towards a completion of sorts. I finally knew what I was going to do with my life. Well, I finally knew how I was going to do what I was supposed to do with my life.

Turns out my “ministry” as a baptist (as it were) didn’t turn out exactly like I had expected. In the next few weeks, I would have a series of conversations with my then girlfriend and now partner, Merianna, about her own calling. That would lead to her deciding to apply to Gardner-Webb for seminary as well in pursuit of understanding and following her call to ministry. It was an exciting moment in our relationship. I loved our exploration of her Baptist tradition and seeing her while she went through an extended process of discernment. I tried, in my limited way, to be both an advocate and a supporter. As the first day of classes approached, I was also in a process of discernment about my path again. I made another decision to forgo those last few classes of the MDiv program.

Now looking back on that pivotal point in my life, I realize it was the right decision to make. Merianna’s ministry has flourished and paved an amazing path for both herself and other people in both Baptist and now UCC life to listen to their callings and pursue theological education. Being able to contribute occasional pulpit supply or Sunday School series or pastoral care duties along side her over the years has been the truest expression of being baptist that I could have experienced. We’ve laughed, cried, argued, agreed, under thought, and over thought about her own experiences as well as mine.

To be walking alongside her in this path and attempting to do what I can to support her has opened my own eyes to the systematic sexism (and misogyny) that infects much of religious life in the United States still. That’s especially true in my the Baptist ecosystem regardless of regional or identification flavor. From the Southern Baptist Convention to the American Baptist Church to the Alliance of Baptists to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (there are many others, those are just the ones I’ve been affiliated with or participated through in some way), issues around gender, identification, ableness, and identity run rampant in local churches large to small and progressive to conservative.

That eye opening realization has led my own consulting work with churches (and nonprofits) to focus on some of these issues with clients. What begins as a conversation about tech or messaging and public relations often turns to a deeper look at the intrinsic nature of underlying problems within a church instead of outside a church.

“How can we get more people to like our Facebook page and attend our (virtual) services?”
“Why aren’t young families participating and giving like they once did?”

These are the style of questions that I address with many churches that often lead to a discernment process which uncovers the same sort of systematic rot that lies at the heart of congregations on the brink of having to cut staff, sell property, and make tough decisions about the future. I don’t know if I’ve “saved” any churches directly through my work, but I know that some have blamed me for being able to keep the lights on a few months later. That is a form of ministry I never would have experienced had it not been for that intrusion of Merianna’s calling in my own life.

As an Ivy-league educated white male with a head full of doubt but a road full of promise in the Baptist world, I would have taken a pastor position at a small church and worked my way dutifully up the ranks until landing a coveted Senior Pastor position at some large Baptist congregation with a six figure income and a nice vacation and health insurance package (and maybe a country club membership or Chamber of Commerce speaking opportunities thrown in) while I worked on my eventual series of books about spiritual guidance in troubled times while passing off difficult pastoral care duties to Associate Ministers due to my heavy schedule of speaking arrangements and decisions I had to make regarding committee budgets.

I’m glad I chose not to pursue that path.

Being baptist isn’t a career ladder nor is it a call to the ordinary. It’s not a phase or a stage. It’s not something we get over, but it’s a process of thought. It’s about listening and hearing that still small voice inside all of us calling our souls to competency but also calling us to be outwardly be transformed by an inner revelation. That means working for good for all. That means standing up for those who have been shut out of the board rooms of decision and the committee calls of power and allowing space for their voices to be recognized.

Perhaps the fictional Jerry Maguire’s Mission Statement / Memo sums it up the best:

That happens when we don’t listen to the loud sound of the quiet voice inside. Life, I believe, is not a country club where we forget the difficulties and anxieties. Life is the duty of confronting all of that within ourselves. I am the most successful male in my family, but I am hardly the happiest. My brother works for Nasa, helping grow blue-green algae that will one day feed the world. He was originally targeted as the “successful” one in my family. But he gave up early, for a quieter kind of success. He was once tortured, now he is quietly making the world a better place. He learned earlier what I am just now starting to wake up to. He sleeps well at night. And he doesn’t worry about being too preoccupied or too busy to get the dance right. He dances for something greater.

Don’t dance (as we Baptists would say) for people, but dance for something greater than yourself.

1 Peter 3:18-22

3:18 For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit,

3:19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison

3:20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.

3:21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you–not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

3:22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.


Crescendo of conspiracy until the mounting
Of evidence with harm accumulates on the back.

The Redbird creeks on a branch feeding
In the ice rain over a frozen land finished with white.

Glass covered floors in the palace of Ithaca wetting
The tile with a strange homecoming of fire and blood.

A nostos for the Cunning to a land forgetting
And has forgotten his words and deeds.

The one much prayed for by those in a sardonic mood smiling
The epithets of an ice-frozen heart and spear.

With Polyphemus as his guide and a bag of wind blowing
To take them home to a land for Nobody.

The Two-Headed Turtle resting
On the potions of Hermès to escape the magic of memory.

Only Argos remembers him and joins his standing
In the broken palace that brings libel to the song.

The Cunning beat their chest and sing songs while limping
Away on the promises of an afterlife inside the palace door.