Wednesday, December 25, 2019

I wondered if the star of Bethlehem was a super nova

In this picture, UCC Church in Pullman, WA. looked kind of like it did during my childhood. Photo taken 1997.

I grew up in a liberal church which I still have a lot of respect for. The UCC Congregational Church, in Pullman.

The life of Jesus, all the way from Christmas stories to the death and resurrection part was shared like it was a set of mysterious tales and inspirational parables. It wasn't presented as rigid fact. It had a mystique about it. Ancient tales from Roman times. That made it all the more intriguing; in a way.

Back then, I might have thought about it the way I view questions about the origin of the universe. What may have come before the big bang? Was there a "before?"

The Roman Empire was kind of intriguing, to me, as well. So different than the world I was experiencing. There was the census and Caesar Augustus, the manger and the star of Bethlehem. I thought that star could have been a supernova. A large star, out in the galaxy, exploding as it reached the end of it's supply of hydrogen.

Then there was a story, I heard, about the old furnace in the basement of the church. When it ran out of fuel, one day, it supposedly, blew the door off the furnace room. I was kind of scared to walk past that door for several years.

My parents didn't march us all to church each Sunday. They just went when it was convenient for them. During my early childhood, I did kind of resent going to church, however. It all seemed old, musty and archaic.

Back in the early 1960's people still dressed up to go to church, or even just to go downtown. I didn't like the polyester type slacks I was expected to wear. When I got home from church, I was expected to change back into more informal clothing, but it was an annoying chore.

One time I tried to find a shortcut to having to take off my shoes before changing my pants. I pulled my pant legs off over my shoes, but the pant legs got stuck. Being determined to continue down that road, I shuffled out to my dad's shop, and grabbed the oil can. I tried to lubricate the pant legs so they would slip off over the shoes. It just made an even bigger mess.

By the time I got to high school, I started understanding theological discussions more. My impressions of the church improved significantly as I started participating in some free wheeling and speculative discussions there.

I still feel welcome in UCC and other liberal churches today even though I don't go to Sunday morning things due, mostly, to working night shift.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Can the 1% be our allies or are they always the "enemy?"

I wonder if there has been a survey of people's political opinions by income category? Are the wealthy necessarily more conservative than the poor or the middle class? Maybe there has been surveys like this. I would guess there is some correlation, but maybe not as significant as is often thought.

We have both income discrepancy, but we also have a clash in cultural values. As a liberal, I sometimes find it reassuring that not all the money and power is on the other side. Also it seems like there is hypocracy related to wealth on both sides.

I notice, when looking at a political map of the USA, that wealth tends to focus in urban areas and urban areas tend to be more liberal. There are exceptions to this pattern, tho. If one wants jobs and prosperity, move to the city. For affordable living, it's in the country. In many ways we are like yin and yang. A swirl with a bit of the other in each.

My modification of a Yin Yang symbol.

As for the 1%, regardless of whether they are liberal or conservative, I realize that someone is going to own the businesses. In our economy, there is concentration of wealth, to some extent, as someone is going to "own the store," so to speak. It could be a workers collective, stock holders, an entrepreneur or even the government. Someone is going to own it. That's understandable. I don't necessarily see the 1% as the enemy.

At the same time, I do think they have undue and corruptible influence on government and culture.

I also hold them accountable for their, usually higher levels of personal consumption. Not their legitimate business expenses, but their personal consumption. As for the impact on the environment, middle class and even some of the consumption from the poor is a factor as well. We all comprise the consumer market and the voting public. Our leadership does fail us, but we often buy it.

As for the wealthy being job creators, there are some trends in technology that counter this. 3D printing, for instance. There are some trends toward decentralization in the means of production.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Recreating Facebook in a decentralized way?

There are quite a few people who are critical of Facebook, yet it's hard to beat the interactive momentum that Facebook has.

I got to thinking that the open web used to work kind of like Facebook, but at a much more subdued level. People just posted things on their blogs, web sites and so forth. Things came up in searches and comments were made.

I guess this could happen again, versus trying to create a new Facebook. It's hard to get the momentum of network effect going on a new site; especially when friends are mostly on Facebook. Possibly a new site could get off the ground if it had less; rather than more, concern about privacy. If one doesn't already have friends on the site, low privacy makes it easier to find people and content via search.

It was fairly easy to find connections on the open web back when there was less privacy, paywalls and so forth. The web was like a seamless thing. Not totally open and seamless, but the whole concept of "open source" comes to mind. Decentralized and non proprietary.

The reason why this comes to mind is that a friend of mine just mentioned that he used to find what was going on in various towns, that he traveled to, by doing searches on the web. Now he says it's harder to find things because the events and discussions just get posted on Facebook, but not on the open web. He thinks Facebook's search doesn't work very well and it would be easier if the things could be found in Google.

When he said that, a light went on in my mind.

I do still try and put things onto the open web; including this blog and my photo albums on Flickr.

Facebook does intensify the interaction significantly, but quite a few things aren't posted on the open web anymore. I still put things on the open web; especially if they play well; so to speak, on Facebook. Facebook is a testing ground for my thinking as it's where I get almost all of the interaction. If it plays well on Facebook, then I put it on the web. Places like Flickr are good for search and archive, but, these days, it's a lot quieter out there; feedback wise.

A strategy of Facebook is friends interacting with friends. It's friends that are most interested in our content; rather than the big time media. Big time media tends to ignore us. Of course if they print everything we offer, it's truly "information overload." That's why focusing on friend networks takes off. It stimulates the grassroots discussion.

I basically still like Facebook. I do think more use of the open web would help. Posting things on blogs, web sites and so forth.

Open search engines could be developed to prioritize the content from average people, rather than loosing it under a stack of celebrity (such as Trump Tweets) content. One's friends could become a "filter option" in Google Search.

Maybe something like the Facebook feed could be recreated at the user end; on the user's browser. A plug in to the browsers that would bring up things from bookmarks the users put into the browser. Create a feed from a list of bookmarks which would include one's personal friends?

Maybe that's what RSS feeds were? I'll have to refresh myself on that again. It's kind of a dusty memory.

Before the World Wide Web, grassroots discussion was a lot more limited. There just wasn't enough space, in the media, for everything. There were things like letters to the editor, but there was more space for interaction in person. Discussions around the water cooler, so they say. I still find that I have a lot of those discussions in person today.

In a way, Facebook is the water cooler on steroids.

Back in the early days of search engines, there was a search engine called Magellan. It had a rule, if I remember correctly, that it would only list content from official publications and more credible, institutional type sources. No personal, self publishing type web sites were allowed. Other search engines, at the time, did allow personal sites. Sites such as Altavista and Lycos did allow personal content. The later sites took off with more interesting content while, I think, Magellan didn't get that big. A while after that, Google started indexing everything from personal to institutional content. Google really took off.

To reduce fake news, it may help to try and just catalog institutional content, but one must remember; the Trump White House is an institution also.

My strategy for reducing fake news is to be in less of a hurry. I'm not in a hurry to re post things until there's time for fact checking and discussion to happen.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

The places I have lived.

It may seem narcissistic, but I have created a photo album about the places I have lived. It's on Flickr which is visible on the open web. No subscriptions needed. I've weaved some of my opinions, about living situations, into the photo captions and descriptions that come up when one clicks on each photo.

You've already seen a few of the pictures on Facebook, but I now have the whole album. It does seem narcissistic, but social media tends to favor personal stories over just news and opinion that one might also get from the mass media.

So here it is. Places I have lived.

Photo from my 2013 move. Follow above link to my 2019 move and beyond.

See also My Childhood.