QC-L Version 4.0

Yes, welcome to my lair of evil thoughts and incorrect speech where I don't let go and move on and I talk about whatever I please. On a blog no one ever tells you to shut up. If you don't like what I say, just go elsewhere.

This blog now has a new background and a new theme. It is also using a remotely loaded style sheet. That is a first. It is lush, heavy, and uses a background that has a theme I have never used here before, though I have used it for pressies. Let the show go on! It always does anyway. And yes, we are powered by Blogger.

I am putting a temporary illustration here until I have a logo for this design. Watch this space.

temporary illustration

LET'S ROLL THOSE OTHER SITES

The Backfile: this blog's archives.

Ajayu, home of my story, The Sneezeweed Chronicles. Yes, I do fiction.

It will have Oneiro, my own little role play.

Unfettered Soul, my flagship site.

The Silk Purse, my play pretend Brainstorms.

Failed Messiah Religious news never sounded so good.

New York Times. Read the news and be smart.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

Why read Watts? The question is what is network science good for? There is something scarey and manipulative about knowing (and I don't know and neither does Watts nor any body else...yet) how people make decisions in groups or how to get an idea in to a crowd to influence it via a bottom up, spontaneous seeming network, but if ordinary people know and learn the secrets, maybe they can be on guard to prevent their own manipulation.

There are all ready sites out there willing to try to use a bottom up network strategy to influence others. In my first throes of vengance work against all things Brainstormish. I joined Bzzagent and still sometimes get their emails. I figured supporting anything that supported the Free Enterprise system was good. Now, knowing what I know about Howard and his tactics and his course, I realize this wasn't the best of decisions.

So what does one do, when a friend comes by and says try this? Recently I stood in line at Whole Foods and had a jar of chocolate soynut butter in my basket. The woman behind me in line asked me if it was any good. I gave it a rave revue. I virtually mainline the stuff. Now, I could have been a shil for I.M. Healthy, the company that makes the soynut butter. I was a complete stranger so that makes it even more likely in a way. I am very wary of asking strangers about products. I am wary of what advice columns I read. I haven't had to ask for a reference in a long time.

Maybe people have to learn nonsocial ways to make decisions. There is a very good one that my father taught me and it works when you have twenty to fifty choices or even more. First, close your eyes and think of what you really want. This is before you even face the possible choices. The way my father used to put this was: "What do you feel like eating, Eileen?" That he often overrode this decision was beyond the point. With a neophilic small child who had a propensity to eat herself sick and had eyes bigger than her stomach, this was not a bad strategy as long as the time of day did not change. The next step is called scoping. Without buying anything, one walks from one end of the large hall at the Farmer's Market, the Crafts Fair etc...to the other and survey's every booth or table. This works at State Fairs, supermarkets, food courts, restaurant lined streets etc... Then one puts the initial desire together with what is available. Out pops a choice. As an adult, I do this with contingency shopping lists. This method works.

Method number two of nonsocial decision making is called the shuffle and shake out. The network scientists would have a field day with this one. Quite simply put, you want a good MSN Group but have no recommendations. You join three to five of them and try to make sure they are all active. You watch them for a few weeks and keep the ones you like best. You may keep them all. You may lose one or two. You may lose them all. This kind of decision making works well where you can try before you buy. The physical analog to this is bringing CD's and tapes to a store and testing boomb boxes. You need to make sure their doors open easily, they sound good, their buttons feel right etc.... You don't walk home with two boomboxes but you try five or six.

When you do shuffle and shake out with email lists, web boards, or MSN groups, it probably changes your network (and thus everyone else' network configuration). You develop a lot of weak ties to new people and probably lose a few ties to more familiar faces. If people shuffle and shake out repeatedly, it makes path lengths shorter though a bit more tenuous since it takes time to get to know the people in new groups.

Again, this is what I can come up with off the top of my head. I'll know more as I read more Watts. Right now my best advice for stopping a bottom up revolution is to be the weak link in the chain. Ask questions: "where did this come from? On whose authority? Who told it to you? Is this really so? Why does this matter?" This makes you a bit of a pain, but it also stops questionable mesages of unknown origin from propagating through you and keeps you from acting on them.

The Shlomo der Apikores wrote this on his blog, and I thought "oh boy! Chabad and gender, and sometimes even Orthodox Judaism and gender. My favorite subject!" Well not quite my favorite subject but one of my favorites.

Where do I even begin? First, I noticed something was different over at my favorite chabad schul when I met the other ladies. The older ones don't faze me. The guys control the kitchen so there is no biddy problem. This is when older women take control of all the social organizations and the kitchen and leave the younger women sitting their with thumbs inserted in a rather uncomfortable part of their anatomy.

At my local branch of Chabad, this is not the problem. There is the kiddie problem. I am forty-four, never married, and child free. I don't know thing one to do with a baby. I don't think that's particularly awful. I'm free to show up for services. I can't be in the minyan but I can be in the audience. I don't read a lick of Hebrew any way so I pray along in English and enjoy it in the way that people who did not get a dose of this stuff as a child, enjoy religion.

The real problems are froufrou and food. The food I've written about here before. Food is symbolic in Judaism. Any religion that makes a big fetish over kashrus makes a big fetish over food. Jews travel hundreds of miles to buy the finest food. We are supposed to spare no expense for fine food on shabbos. When the biddies size up a newcomer, one of the first questions they ask her is: "what do you like to make?" They can tell in a few questions how assimilated she is, where in the country she has lived etc... I pan out as someone who knows her way around a kitchen, is neophilic, a bit health conscious, and fairly assimilated. I am also observant and keep kosher. And yes, I make cole slaw without mayonaise (I also make the other variety).

I could take over the kitchen of my schul and have it produce ten times better food with ten times the variety for the same cost. Yes, it would cost me my Thursday evenings, but so what. Of course my solution to kashrus is to prepare a lot of food from scratch. Fresh fruits and vegetables and most grains do not require a hechsher and macaroni, mayonaise, spices, and other staples can easily be found kosher. This cuts the ties to the infrastructure that produces "kosher food." It also means a fairly healthy menu, since there are lots of vegetable and macaroni (pasta if you prefer) salads out there, as well as other cold vegetable dishes and fresh fruit is an easy to fix always kosher dessert.

OK, I won't hold my breath, because no one is putting me on food committee any time soon if we even have a formal food committee which we don't. Let's talk about froufrou. Males, beware, you are entering female territory, not the territory of having two X chromosomes and no Y chromosome, but of gender, feeling female, and what it means to be female, and what a female is supposed to do in the world.

Froufrou is the female love for aeasthetics taken to a weird kind of extreme that says the only way I am going to prove myself a worthy female and get what I want is with my body and by being beautiful. Under most circumstances, Tsnius is not an enemy of beauty. Ninty degree Sundays when I would rather run around in shorts or when the swimming pool up the block sings its siren song, are another story. Then I chuck tsnius to the winds, but if I'm working, going to schul, or just want to present myself nicely and publicly, tsnius is a no brainer and it makes sense. A below the knees skirt and a sweater (Brrrr...most buildings have the air conditioning cranked up too high anyway) or short sleeved shirt, make sense, and can be quite attractive. They give plenty of movement and are dressy enough for most situations without seeming overdressed. I even get my choice of color or style.

A few weeks ago, I saw some fairly young rebbitzens gathered at Chabad for services and kiddush lunch. They were at an early childhood convention (What happens to Lubavitcher girls who are not maternally inclined? Does someone suggest they become accountants or engineers or teach high school?) and this was the only place they could eat. They were wearing very tailored blouses that might not have been warm enough on that dank, raw, day; tight skirts; and most of them had heels on that clearly made even the walk from their hotel uncomfortable. I looked at these poor women and thought: "ouch!"

One of the great joys of frum dress is freedom from this sort of thing. It's shoes comfortable enough to walk four and a half miles to synagogue and still look presentable, a skirt that gives enough freedom of movement to climb on a stool or squat, warm sweaters (Who wants to be cold!).

I know that the froufrou clothes shout out a message: "we're still pretty!" even though we've had kids (I don't know how many kids. I never asked. Some things I don't want to know.) and even though we are modest. I felt like yelling back: "you don't have to suffer to look good."

Besides, what good is looking pretty if the males in your culture have totally abandoned any sense of aesthetics. By the way, if you abandon something you also devalue it. It doesn't matter how good you look. It doesn't matter that outsiders like me notice you trying to look good. What I notice a lot more are the males who always wear the same color shirt, pants, and jacket. I know men like uniforms, but if they are going to talk about worshipping God with joy, then they leave themselves wide open to my classic dumb question: "why don't you wear different color shirts?" Wearing different colors every day is joyful. Eating different food each week is also joyful. That's putting love of God in to the physical world. The Chasidic men I know, particularly the rabbis, need to learn from their wives, sisters, and daughters.

Now as for froufrou itself, I detest it on principle. Sorry, I got a good education. I support myself. I like getting a look together as much as the next woman, but I don't need to use my body to make a statement about my personal worth and desirability. Men should know I am a colleague and in the right situation a competitor. I was raised in a culture that permitted and encouraged young women to perform. That's secular American culture with its high school activities, drama club, and chorus (and for the athletic types, sports teams). Froufrou is a strategy of the weak and I'm not weak.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

I am reading Watts' Six Degrees. The math is well hidden and still a bit hard, but Watts is an excellent story teller. I am finally reading all of it, not just the chapter I had to gulp down for Howard's course. The weird thing about Watts is that he seems to back up most of the questions I've asked on this blog.

I liked the treatment he gives power curves. It turns out that not all social networks follow them and some of the power curves vary in slope and have different cut offs etc... What I would love to know is: What effect do participation and self-voting requirements have on the power curve of member participation, particularly in MSN groups.

Watts draws his power curve with the long tail sticking up like a happy social cat's tail. The tail is tallest at zero or approaching zero, slopes down steeply and becomes a long flat curve. This is where the big nodes play and where those who post endlessly live. A participation requirement has to change the power curve of partipation. The only question is how.

First, among members who are not booted out for nonparticipation, the tall tail peeks at one (or a particular fraction) instead of zero. If most new members fail to survive the participation requirement, then the power curve for all members has a bump in it at the minimal number of postings (either one or a fraction) and a plateau rising toward the minimum to the left of the minimum. If most new members make the participation requirement and do nothing more, the curve resembles that for members who are not booted out.

Now here is where things get strange. If the participation requirement motivates members to do more than just fulfill the minimum number of posts (usually a daily sign in), then it should change the steep negative slope of the tall tail making it shallower. If this is so, then a participation requirement can break the J-curve.

Of course getting a participation requirement to work usually requires an easy way to fulfill it such as a daily sign-in and a variety of games threads, show off threads, riddle, tivia, or question of the day threads etc... Most people are not in to writing and self expression as I am, but given the right tools, something as simple as a participation requirement, just might break the mighty J-curve's power.

My second Watts related question is: in real life social networks which appear by the way NOT to conform to the small world model, do those with the most links have different kinds of links than those with only a few. If the most obscure links re buried with poorly connected folks, then finding a way to different people in different milieus is going to be tougher. Do well connected people really collect links indiscriminately or do they only connect links of a certain kind?

I'm a Jew with a Christmas tree. I always wanted one. My parents were nonbelievers so their no was not reasonable or valid. Also I realized I could convert and have my tree. I later found out I didn't have to convert and that twenty percent of all Jews have trees. Now, if having a tree violates your cultural identity and/or makes you feel more assimilated than you find comfortable, fine don't have one, but don't bash those of us who do.

My tree is gorgeous and white It has close to a hundred ornaments carefully collected. People do not decorate their trees haphazardly. Trees have themes. Even home trees have themes. This surprised my mother, but I head learned from Christian friends all about tree-ology. My tree's theme is burgundy and teal (or teal and burgundy) which is nice since most white trees end up with red or green themes. Some people like to do their tree Victorian or with children's toys. I like animals for personality ornaments, though my favorite ornaments is a set of men in the moon.

One challenge to having a successful tree that survives the season and does not become a health hazard or endanger you or other members of your household is making sure the cats don't decide the tree is a climbing toy and the ornaments are batting toys. Let me recommend Inglehoffer's Wasabi sauce. This potent smelling stuff, has a scent cats detest. Just rub it on the trees lower branches and cats avoid the tree. In fact, my cats remembered getting a whiff of aversive from last year. Both approached the tree wtih caution. Right now both cats are in the living room on the couch and showing no interest in the tree.

In other news, we read Parshas Toldos in schul. I remember reading this before I knew what a Parsha was. My mom, though not a believer, wanted her kids to have familiarity with the Bible. She bought a Living Bible and while my mom and brother did not make it past Leviticus once the stories were over, I stuck out through the whole Old Testament. Parshas Toldos is the story of the rivalry between Esau and Jacob. It was a story that cut close to the bone, because I come from a two sibling family with intense and ugly rivalry between Harvey, my brother, and me. Being a first born, I always pictured myself as Esau and felt bad for him. Then I'd start feeling bad for myself and more than a little scaird.

Today I read the story and just asked "why?" Why set one child against the other, as Rebeccah blatantly did. Couldn't both boys have a birthright. They were after all twins. Why weren't there blessings enough for both siblings. To make matters worse, Jacob and Esau had a real shot at making peace. They were not competitors. Go reread Genesis. Esau was a hunter and very much an independent self starter and oddly enough a family man who went out and started his own family. Jacob was more docile, "dwelled in tents," and was not the one who brought home the meat. Some commentators say that Jacob spent his time learning Torah which of course had yet to be written but the Patriarchs were all prescient any way. My point is that the brothers operated in separate spheres. As noncompetitors they had a shot at living together in harmony, and they blew it.

Actually they didn't blow it. They were barely in their twenties if that when their father entered old age and there was talk of birth rights and blessings and such. None of their parents came from good families or families that were what we today would call functional. Isaach's father nearly killed him (It's called the Akehda) and sent away an older brother of his to die. Rebeccah's brother was Laban. Enough said there. The idea of giving both sons blessings and splitting the birth right and calming the rivalry never occured to the parents or to Rebeccah who clearly favored one son over the other.

There are many Rebeccahs in real life. My grandmother on my father's side was one of them. As I said Parshas Toldos cuts close to the bone. When my Uncle Henry was born when my father was six and a half, the parents wanting to enjoy the new baby set my father away to sleep away camp. Grandma Kramer preferred Henry to my dad. I won't tell the rest of the story. There is a lot more to it and it crosses generational lines. My brother and I did get to play Esau and Jacob. Thankfully we don't live in a time of birth rights and blessings. Thankfully, both my parents had some awareness on some level of poison of sibling rivalry and did try to stop it some of the time. Sometimes it was way too easy for my father to forget. Contrary to the Book of Genesis, geography and time are not great cures.

Maybe Jacob was scarred. He could not make peace among his wives. His children attempted fratricide. It took Joseph's being sold in to Egypt and living in a different kind of family to break the cycle. Joseph by the way was the father of twins and could not resisting favoring one son over the other. No one has ever written of the sibling rivalry between Epharim and Manasseh. Did it happen? It is lost to history or at least to the Bible.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

Well the weed of community generated by bottom up network has borne some pretty poisonous fruit. This is a fake web site so difficult to distinguish from the real thing that it takes a trip to AllWhois to find out it belongs to the Yes Men. Of course I suspected the Yes Men were behind this.

Well, you might ask, what is wrong wtih the Yes Men? They rely on a bottom up community of those who are in the know to get the joke and laugh the targets of the joke out of respectability. Those who don't.... well a community always has an inside and an outside. In this case the outside includes ordinary folks who are lucky enough to get a speaker. The victims and they are victims (or there may still be victims) are ordinary working folks, college professors, and business people who feel lucky to get a speaker from a big name profree trade organization and then find out they have been duped. This is precisely what I DON'T do with my avatarot.

There are also leftist critiques of the Yes Men that there really is not much need for parody and that members of the movement are often ones who don't "get it" and are left with the sour feeling of being outside the community.

Ironically WTO web site is a piece of Trippi style public relations. They offer fora and appear just simply incredibly user friendly. I suspect strongly that the WTO site is not for those who are committed to an antiglobalization agenda. It's for undecided folks or folks in the middle or folks who remember about comparative advantage from when they took Econ 101. It gives them a place to gather and moves them an inch down the bench. After all, if there is an antiglobalization community, why shouldn't there be a community of folks who support free trade, maybe even ordinary folks who either see that they benefit from it somehow (cheap clothing and shoes for example) or think its inevitable etc... I'm undecided myself. I have a decidedly dim view of outsourcing, but I do remember learning about competitive advantage in Econ 101. Besides that, I've become a lot more profree enterprise since I got booted out of Brainstorms.

Now here is a decidedly unTrippi-esque site. It binds me in to a communmity with all other Coke drinkers. Theoretically this is not a bad idea. Soda is becoming a political issue in the way that food products become political. Schools have banned its sales. Students are of course free to bring it from home, I hope. Can you imagine a soda inspection or junk food inspection at the schoolyard gate? It may happen. Meanwhile, many adults who are "health conscious&qot; refuse to serve soda at parties and my schul has banned it though members are free to bring their own.

Well there is a smokers' rights movement so why not a soda drinkers' rights movement? It could have a web site that half resembles Chow Hound and is half political. After all, who is not for providing access to a legal product for those who wish to purchase it? Who would not want to unite behind a movement that stands against kill joys? This is a very defensible position.

Instead, Coke is offering me rewards if I send in the codes from soda bottle caps. Send in enough rewards and I can win prizes most of which are given out through affiliated companies. In the world of big business food is entertainment. This all feels rather convergent and just a tad Neopian. It is a shame because Coke-a-Cola has missed a big political opportunity.

I'm having a crisis of faith with my MSN Groups. If you're a manager of one of them, don't worry. You are doing a great job. This is my problem, not yours. The problem is what do you do when someone comes in to your group who is not a great fit? Sometimes the person has what the group wants. He or she shares the common interest, the hobby, what have you...but is a demographic mismatch. A never married childless adult is often a mismatch in both my crafting groups.

The managers might protest but let's do the demographics. Never marrieds are very rare among people of a certain age. Only five percent of the population never marries. Older never marrieds are especially rare. When someone writes that every one in the grou values family and family time above all things, they forget that there is a never married in the group who lives alone and who may have different values. It's not of course a question of whose values are good or bad. It's just that we are different.

Here is another example. It's the "Jew problem." I am a Jew. Demographically we are two point five percent of the population. In real terms we exist in a fairly visitble percentage in the big cities on the coasts and around the Great Lakes and we don't exist any where else. There really are no Jews in flyover country and in an MSN Group I often end up being the only Jew. Is this a big deal? When the issue is Judaica graphics or proper holiday greetings my faith and ethnicity (Judaism is both) start to matter. I keep kosher. Gee, there are certain recipes I'm just never going to try. Then of course there was the time I wrote a fairly scathing critique of Chasidus and posted it. I got told not to post about religion. I wrote back that I doubted that Chasids were monitoring the group. I think the leader sensed the vitriol and passion in my prose as well as its length. The irony was I was not proselytizing and I was not bashing any one else' faith unless you are Chasidic and even then most of my critique is cultural. We believe in the same God but not the same way to reach Him. My critiques are entirely tactical.

My experience with Christians has been that they do not write tactical critiques. They write exhortations to faith that are designed for the all ready faithful. They also use faith as a way to cover talking up talking about family relation problems. After all how can one know the state of an obnoxious cousin or dying father who's leaving behind unfinished business' soul and aren't t here more pressing issues? Shouldn't one leave the state of that family member's soul up to God? It is just plain simpler to complain about the state of a loved one's (or not so loved one's) soul than it is to talk about all the fights you are having with the loved one.

So what is a group to do with a mismatch, and what is a mismatch to do with her group? First, the mismatch can obey group rules. If there is a participation requirement, fulfill it. If there are games, play them. If you don't like all the games, don't play all the games. Play the games you like. If you prefer ice breaker posts such as weather, plans, or blog buddies then do those. If you can't find any threads, consider making your own but don't do this too often. Make an effort to fit in. Don't scream if you get marginalized. Remember the manager is not doing this with malice. I make Judaica graphics to fill a void for those and I don't complain that no one else is making them. I skip the glurge as well.

Now the group manager also has a part to play. She can treat the mismatch like any other member. She can ignore the differences that come out in a thread like blog buddies or plans. If the mismatch gets involved in an argument as happened on A8 recently, the manager shouldn't blame the mismatch. There were half a dozen people contributing to the argument thread. The mismatch was just one of them. The manager in A8 did not blame the mismatch, and the manager in U02 has been fairly accepting.

Managers should not ask mismatches to bury their posts, announce publicly that they are ignoring a mismatch's posts, or let other members make a similar announcement. The manager should also not suggest that the group is not a good place for the mismatch or wonder aloud in a post whether the mismatch belongs in a group. Believe me I have seen behavior like this on Brainstorms. I have not seen it at MSN Groups. I hope I'm not giving any managers out there ideas. These are very bad ideas.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

It is time we have a thread on migration away from MSN Groups. This can cover full or partial migration, new sites for groups, getting your membership safely to those sites, saving what you have created etc...

Why do we need this thread? Quite simply, we at MSN Groups have built a unique and valuable culture and one that it is important to preserve. Here is what we have done:

  1. We have figured out how to at least cut some of the long tail off the power curve that describes participation online. No one here has ever heard of a power curve, well not quite no one, but because we do not believe it to be a universal law, we consider it a problem to be solved. I am not the world's biggest fan of activity requirements but they do encourage new members to post and be involved and move up toward's the top end of a group's participation ranks. That is more than the secret elite who runs MSN do.

  2. We have not been poisoned by this philosophy. Our roots are in mainstream America, Canada, Western Europe and Australia.

  3. We are also NOT poisoned by this philosophy. We believe that groups need leaders, someone to take responsibility. We have not created a virtual world where those who know each other form organic networks that keep the strangers out. This is the world being created on Wallop. Those behind Wallop are devotees of the above philosophy. If you think back to your days in middle school, you will remember what it was like to have organic communities that formed from the bottom up and let in those who were close. Some of those communities did not need leaders. Of course we called those communities cliques. MSN Groups with its accessibility to newcomers and traditional top down organization is the antithesis of a smart mob.

  4. We have a graphic and craft sensibility that has allowed technical knowledge of html and graphics to diffuse. Our pages are lusher and richer and often more interesting than those built by so-called professionals. True, MSN Groups offers no access to cascading style sheets, but we still make creative and exciting use of html and graphics.

You may be able to think of other reasons to protect what we have created, but these are enough for a start. And yes, what we have created is threatened. We do not have an official closing date fof MNS Groups. That date might very well lie years in the future, but any time I walk on to a certain board, all I see are complaints about lack of stability, groups that have features that don't work, forgotten pages, broken graphics, white pages etc... MSN Groups is degrading because the secret elite who run MSN Groups do not use the service and have been poisoned by the above philosophies at least to some extent. Their energy is elsewhere in Windows Live and Wallop. Even without a closure, if the degradation and neglect continue, we are looking at our groups becoming unusable and potential members staying away from MSN Groups.

What I propose is that we start creating a community/discussion of best practice for migration and preservation. We collect possible migration sites. We also discuss strategies such as backing up the group's static pages (not its boards) on free web space or under domain names, looking at other boards or creating boards inside other large services. If only because some groups need storage capacity, one solution will never fit all, but if we pool our knowledge we stand a better chance of perserving our culture.

OK, it's time for more tales out of schul. I was going to write about food, but I have a Chasidic male character on a fiction list and I want to write in his voice in first person. He is a full, round, dynammic character even if he is fictional. The problem is how do I crawl in to a male chasid's skin.

I have known one Chasidic rabbi quite well. We swapped college tales. He grew up modern Orthodox and switched. I was the bridge back to his youth. We met on common ground. There is no common ground with the male Chasidim I now know. I watch them and recognize bits of the stories my boyfriend and his clergy friends like to tell. The clergy like doing jumps on a skate board is a Y chromosome thing. That there are female clergy now is a good thing. They will be more like the rest of their congregation, the women who never had boy dreams and men who have left their boy dreams behind. The clergy of course will become a standard helping profession but maybe that is better. You can argue it either way.

What I see when I look at my rabbi is a young (younger than I am but not a whole generation younger) male who is tall, deep voiced, confident, and charismatic. That is part of the magic that makes the Orthodox rabbinate work. Beyond that, I see a person with very little formal general education. Beyond that it gets stranger. Lubavitch Chasidus, is different from main stream Judaism in that it has a historical continuity that carries it from early modern times (with the Bal Shem Tov) to the present. Succession, rebbes (living gurus), and having a living teacher who is a tsaddick and part of the smooth path between human and divine is a big piece of the puzzle. I wonder if rebbes are not that different from sports stars or other heroes that secular men place on pedestals. Even if some Lubavitchers did NOT believe the last Rebbe was the Messiah, the veneration and importance of sages and leaders who have lived fairly recently would make Chasidus different.

Second, the Chasidic men I have seen (with the exception of the one who swapped college stories with me) want to gloss over the details of life and fly, yes kind of like boys on skate boards. Their tales are about transcendence and coincidence that flouts the very laws of nature. This can feel annoying. They have cloistering fantasies. I heard echoes of my boyfriend's talk about cloistering his house in the story of the Rashpie or Rashbi. If you are cloistered you don't have to deal with dates, wives, sisters, young children, going to work etc....

If you drink yourself silly you can almost feel like you are flying. If you sing and dance you soar. If you wear the same clothes (or the same color clothes) every day, you do not have to think about clothes. If you eat the same food every week, you don't have to plan menus. General knowledge, art (among Modern Orthodox especially), aesthetics, cooking, and most secular fields that are not related to making money are left to the females in the community. Among certain charedi, the women are often better educated and able to find employment than their husbands.

The men are free of mundane cares or at least they try to be. Some are good fathers and teachers of younger boys. The men are also Cartesians. The material world is coarse. I have an Orthodox male friend or someone whom I wish could be my friend who has walls full of holy books, a low level job to supplement what he can't make within the Orthodox infrastructure, and yet he never sees butterflies even though there are flowers within blocks of his apartment and who knows nothing about insects though his children are fascinated. No wonder the material world appears dull and coarse. If you don't engage with it and learn its details, it is just a place to get through on the way to words of inspiration. The word became flesh and other organic matter a long time ago.

I'm not sure where this leaves my writer's block. I've cut myself out the biggest and toughest piece of the Chasidic character pie there is and now I have to swallow that. Oh well...you can learn more about what I am doing at the Realm of Spoilers and Out Takes at Ghostletters


Sunday, November 19, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

Note: I'm having some trouble on U02, but such is life. I like the manager despite the troubles.

I want to write about something that I have had to keep silent about due to one of the parties involved being a member of RAOK. Well that party has since dropped her membership so I can speak. What does one say at five years remove? Well my perspective on the whole matter has changed. I know a bit more than I did. I'm not sure I have empathy for the other party, but I do have sympathy. Being the second one on the receiving end still means being on the receiving end. The second party ultimately did what was good for her and got out of the group business, but not before she made my life miserable first.

I'm not sure I want to name this party. I think she still has a web site. I haven't looked and these days I don't want to look for her. I'm going to call her Augustine. The group she managed changed names twice. It started out as Heart of an Angel. I made pressies for it. Somewhere along the line I found myself running the support committee but not before the fireworks. I won't lie. I was inexperienced and stupid and found the drama fun to watch. Augustine instituted an activity requirement. She wanted everyone on committees and gave group members plenty of warning and two weeks to join. I did not think it was particularly outrageous and onerous.

That was when the fun began. Augustine had an older assistant. I don't remember her name but she had Augustine's ear and Augustine had her ear. I'm going to call her Ms. Ear. A few very manipulative older ladies began complaining to Ms. Ear about the activity requirement. Soon both Augustine and the complaining ladies were in tears and my inbox dripped with soggy emails. I just boggled. I thought it was over reaction. I thought it was Augustine's group. I wondered if Augustine had left her spine at home. I thought Augustine was justified.

Our group responded to the wailing and gnashing of teeth by changing names. It went from Heart of an Angel to Secret Garden. This was probably to prevent vandalism. Weepers and wailers sometimes turn nasty. I was now head of the support committee and we rocked. If nothing else worked at the Secret Garden, the Support Committee was where the trains ran on time and there was no blood on the tracks. I styled myself a general in carmine leading her troops with crack precision. Boy was I a dummy.

One of my members sent a Flowgo/Funstun card. I sent back a letter to the Support Committee email list explaining why this was a bad idea. I was clear I was not angry at the member but at the company. It was not her fault. Augustine came down on me. I defended my position explaining that a real life situation was a better teachable moment. The member was unembarasssed and soon we had a great discussion of E-cards and which were good and which worked and how to keep the bad ones out of the hands of caretaking and bereaved recipients. We worked out a system for testing e-cards, sending them to the list address. We went from making drama to problem solving and that is unusual.

So what went wrong? The Secret Garden had another coup and this time I was one of the ones dethroned. I could stay on as a member. I chose not to. I threatened to set up my own group, but had no luck doing it and not enough energy. Augustine and I parted ways acrimoniously. She said I made her sick. To this day, I find Augustine's incompetence as a group manager dazzling.

Has time changed my view of Augustine? Well it has, but only a little. Some three and a half years later, Haldis got psychoed by older ladies at True Hearts of Gold. Now I think that Augustine may have been in Haldis' place with Ms. Ear and some of her buddies ganging up on Augustine. Augustine knuckled under. Haldis put up a fight. Augustine was a group owner, at least a titular owner. Haldis got kicked out and was on her own again quickly. Augustine still left her spine at home. As owner she should have kicked out the psychoes and drama queens. As a member, I should have stopped watching the blood out of the tracks and left this train wreack of a group. Neither of us did what we should have done. No, Augustine I'm not sorry. You were a fool and so was I. That makes two dummies. I hope I learned my lesson and I hoep Augustine learned hers, but I don't really care.

Let's tell some tales out of schul. This is always fun on a weekend and you'll probably be seeing a lot more of this soon. First, I want to tell a story to Belle who is a pseudonym for a young girl whose name I want to spare. Well Belle you are probably wondering how you turn in to a Coca-Cola swilling, QuikTrip loving, forty something, childness never married female. Maybe you are sick of caring for siblings and want to get out of taking care of a large family. Maybe you want to go to grad school full time some day instead of having scads of kids. Maybe you dread the idea of childlessness and no marriage so you think that while I'm cool, I'm posion. I don't know your motivation but you have a right to ask: "How did I get from there to here?" Surely I was born wanting a normal family life in middle age. Don't I fear for my old age? etc....

Well let's start wtih my journey. One does not get from there to here, all at once. No one I have ever known except maybe some kids from big families and crowded houses wakes up some time before and during adolescence and says: "I want to be child free!" That happens on some child free web boards, but I don't think it does in real life. Yes, there are such things as child free web boards. You might find them interesting. Child frees are way down the road of there to here.

Usually the journey from where you are to where I am begins with a series of questions and choices. The first choices belong to your parents and as a result, you may not get to choose them and they are random. Being part of a small family and having an educated mother all help set the stage. My brother, my only sibling, was born when I was less than three years old. As a result, I did not get to do any baby care and my mother had to find me other chores. My mother also wanted to go back to work and was interested in the outside world. She modeled this behavior to me.

Now we get to the choices I made. The first two or three choices are socially approved in mainstream American culture. They might even be socially approved for you given the age you are when you make them. First choice, I concentrated on my academics, and these would be secular academics since I attended a public school. This meant that I learned a lot about the outside world, the public sphere, rather than the domestic one. Most people want girls to do this and this is an approved choice. My second choice was that I did not like babies. Now I hadn't been raised around them and I found I preferred tutoring to babysitting. Again, in many circles this is a fine choice for a teen to make. At fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen you are too young to marry and shouldn't be having sex. If you don't like babies, the products of sex, so much the better because it is one less reason to be involved with boys. Your studies should be coming first anyway. You can always change your mind about babies when you become the proper age for childbearing, but for a foruteen year old not liking babies is just fine.\

Choice number three was also socially sanctioned and downright laudible. I went away full time to earn a four year undergraduate degree. This meant my studies came first. This was a nonmaternal choice but highly approved since it theoretically and often in real life gave me a career. Choice number four starts being controversial in some cultures, but not in mainstream American society: I dated. What dating teaches is that boys are for fun and not just for marriage and procreation. For someone who still has to keep her mind on her studies and establish a career, this is not a bad choice. She indeed does not need a husband to complicate things. This is also a revocable choice, but at eighteen, boys are for dating.

Choice number five was graduate school. Again this was laudible but by now the nonmaternal side of the ledger started filling up. Going away to graduate shcool required a relocation and severed social ties. I was twenty-four at this point and it was time to be seeking out a husband if I watned to reproduce. Relocating and starting anew with social ties in a new town made this task harder. I also had to keep my mind on my studies not on hubby hunting. Not having a husband and being out of the marriage market through relocation and more studies made me less likely to reproduce.

Now the choices became controversial. Choice number six was that I chose to date nonmarrigeable men. I enjoyed dating. I got more variety and there are men who make great boyfriends and lousy husbands. This, choice, however is NOT settling down and without settling down, the chance of having a family drops. Choice number six is not completely socially sanctioned even in mainstream American culture. Choice number seven is to not revoke choice number four. Males are for dating. I had no desire to settle down. I wanted a good boyfriend rather than a stable husband anyway. This is probably a nonsanctioned choice. At some point adults are supposed to settle down and find spouses and then reproduce. Choices six and seven are hard core nonmaternal choices.

Choice number eight is two additional relocations. Choice number nine is a long distance relationship with my current boyfriend. This puts me out of the marriage market. By the way I am so busy with my choices that nature is starting to intervene. Choice number ten which is really not a choice is that I am forty-four years old and don't even know if I'm fertile any more. Moreover, I like my new job. I wish my boyfriend was with me, but a grueling six month job hunt has made me very happy that there are no children in my life and no husband to give me a "two body problem." My gladness and lack of regret are not at all sanctioned by mainstream culture, but to me they make sense. I did not have to think about a second person's employement, the quality of schools. I knew if I relocated hundreds of over a thousand miles, there would be only one life to rip up. The cats could go in crates and in to my boyfriend's car or the cargo hold of an airplane.

That is how I got here. On the plus column I have tasted nearly every form of gentle hetersoexual love except marriage. I have eighteen years worth of professional experience. I go and come as I please. My pay check spreads thickly. It can be a lot worse. I'm not sure how much better it gets than my situation. I supect not all that much. I suspect that ther are multiple good choices and mine were all ten of them nonmaternal. Also up to about choice four or five, these are reversible decisions and most women in mainstream American culture reverse on choices two and four. This propels them in to the marriage market. I did not reverse on choice four. I consider choice two irrelevent. I think small children are cute and newborns fragle and ugly. That combined with choices Six, Seven and Eight were probably what brought me to my current life and took me out of the mainstream. I guess this is more than you wanted to know. You don't intend to get beyond choice number three and reverse on choice number two somewhere in your late teens. Well you did ask how I got from there to here. Now you know.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

I want to draw which is a good thing, but writing comes first. How do you write in empty space? What do you do when you are the first on the block and did not arrive with a crowd? These two questions pertain directly to Wallop. I blog twice a day at Wallop. I just write whatever comes in to my head. My Wallop space with its potential audience is an always ready good friend and confidente. I suppose if I had lived before the internet, I would have discovered blank books and diaries with ribobons and have shelf fulls. I have travel diaries and two sketch diaries and bags of drawings. There must be people out there like me who adore being able to just come home or take a break at work and write and write and write. There is just such pure joy in self expression. It is far more important and far less fickle than community.

You can always have self expression which is why everyone should cultivate a love for it. We would have a better and more peaceable world if all of us happily rushed home to our diaries or popped them out of our purses or in these days of the net ran to our blogs as I am doing now.

But how do you teach people to love and cherish self expression above all else? Joe Trippi celebrates the triumph of the net as the triumph of reading and writing, but given the great deluge of glurge and forwards and hackneyed reused pieces, most people still fear writing frankly about themselves or the things that give them meaning.

A trip through Wallop with its numerous brief and blank profiles and unused blogs shows how little most people like to write. I'm not sure why this is? Is it the fear of looking stupid? Is it the fear of an audience or of no audience at all. I am mot sure. I only knew I grew to cherish self expression above all else after I got kicked out of Brainstorms. Maybe it takes adversity to make me a tough absolutist. I don't know. I do know how I start writing.

I usually write about the weather. Sometimes food is a good topic. Other times something on the news pricks my fancy. Religion and computers are among my favorite topics as is cyberculture. That gives me plenty to write about that is not really private business and easy to share.

Now let me talk about Wallop. Wallop reminds me of Geocities eight or nine years ago. One can cruise through it as one cruised through the neighborhoods except the neighborhoods are unlinked individuals. You only get a link if people know you from elsewhere, or if people respond to cold calling. Then of course what do you do. Wallop pages are web pages without html. Yes, these are proprietary web pages that you can not reproduce elsewhere or even just on your hard drive. If this takes off, it is quite a business coup and a far cry from the original lean and mean html code which was open source too.

Of course proprieatry sealed web pages are not that different from Brainstorms sealed boards or any other closed off board system. Lose your place in the community and lose access to your creations unless you do a lot of cut and paste and play defensively. Rebuilding is difficult. I think Homestead when I think Wallop but it was possible to take a real html page set up on Homestead's super strong server and put it elsewhere. With Wallop this is impossible. Someone skilled in old fashioned graphics or Flash might have the skill, but that is not moost people. Those skills are even rarer than html when you think about it. Wallop is a community with a fiendishly dark underside.

The only question is how well my philosophies of self sufficiency and belief in self expression play out in a sparse and empty environment that Wallop is for most people. If I survive the shake out and end up with friends, well...I'm not sure what it proves. If I just make a daily dose of Wallop a habbit as part of a patterage, I'll also be happy. Right now I want a nicer background, but yes, I'll have to draw one and that means getting some art sticks or using crayon or pastels perhaps. That is more of a weekend project.

One of my colleague's gave me greens, so I may not go to Dunwoody for dinner and a change of scene tomorrow night, but then again, maybe I will. I can't believe I haven't seen the sun in nearly two days. I saw it a bit as it was coming up this morning.

This apartment is always cold at night. I may get to draw if I get done soon enough with this blog. The thought of that is enticing.

The cats' litter pans need changing, but I have no litter. That ranks up there as one excellent excuse.

I even know the kind of things I want to draw, but of course drawing has to take a number.

This time of year the apartment is awash in catalogs. I kind of like that since I am a big fan of the free enterprise system. On the other hand, I have yet to do my Christmas shopping and this year with my mother here in person, I'll actually be shopping and wrapping some gifts the old fashioned way. There is a certain cynacism to some of the gifts I buy for people like my dad. I am glad I am not buying office gifts; for those are the most cynical of all presents.

We are to have a holiday gathering at work that will be catered. I have yet to hear details. I can ask two of my colleagues. I'm sure they will have all the details I need.

This will also be a much happier Christmas than last year. Of course that is not saying much but it is also saying a whole lot. Right now though, the holidays feel very far away.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

After this reading, I get a break for at least a week. Don't worry I'll find other things to write about. Vengance is a many faceted operation and there is always the rest of my life. Anyway, here is the reading:

Control Mechanism Cracked in the Face of Technology by Xiao Qiang, Asian Wall Street Journal on 27 April 05

The article boggled me a bit. First xenophobia is not democracy. World War II ended sixty years ago. What have the Japanese done since except have a decent economy? Anti-Japanese protests remind me of these fine folks. And while we're out here, let's give a free advertisement to folks who discuss what politicians CAN'T say but which you can hear if you are a caucasian in the South and no one knows you're Jewish or liberal and you are sitting in someone's polite living room.

Of course I do have a question: first, do these fine folks use cell phones, PDA's, emails and bottom up technology to form smart mobs along the border? I know they are somewhat official and hierarchcial. According to Lous Beam, they run the risk of infiltration and agent provocateurs.

Of course chasing aliens on the border is not everyone's thing, but wearing red should be easy, at least once a week. Now, what boggles me about Xiao's article is that the Chinese were some how able to get 20,000 protesters together with text messages, forwards plastered all over web boards, and forwards sent via email. In the United States if you send forwards of this nature do you know what people do to them....You can all ready guess. Now bear in mind, China is NO DEMOCRACYM. Protesters risk police brutality and worse. A person wearing a particular ribbon, button, or shirt on Friday doesn't risk anything. In many places, support for the troops at war in Iraq is also genuine in popular.....

Yet this very basic campaign never took off. I think there may be a couple of reasons: Here in Georgia QuikTrip, Target, and Kroger's all have red shirts as part of their uniform. There are thousands of people wearing red on Friday and during the rest of the week because they have to. Also, there is some magic we are not counting on here involved or rather its lack. Is it trust? Is it a small select group of peers who are really the only ones who can do things together? Is it a cleaner internet in China? When people drown in a sea of spam, a real appeal loses its power. Did the big organizations such as the VFW never take up the cause and was that was what it needed?

Some of the language in the Snopes piece looks incredibly smart mobbish yet the whole business fizzled. I think the reason it did was that unlike going to a protest one time and boycotting goods of a country you don't like, supporting the troops involves doing nothing. In fact, it is something you don't have any choice about. You pay taxes. They get withheld from your pay. You can hate and loathe the military with all your heart and still get stuck supporting them. Besides we all ready have cars plastered with "support the troops" magnetic ribbons. Do people need to add red shirts. I guess it is the mission that matters somewhat or does it?


by Eileen Kramer

OK, I have another reading! Here it is....

Leaderless Resistance by Louis Beam

My guess is this is a primary source, but what a source. Here is something else he wrote on his site. The man is a Holocaust denier. That is worse than being a communist or a Marxist.

That said, we now know that leaderless resistance works. On April 12, 1995, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols perpetrated the second worst act of American terrorism on American soil, the destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. They used leaderless resistance which is why their cohorts were never found. Are there networks still out there? Is there a militia movement? I'm not sure but there are lots of strange things squirreled away in the hinterlands.

Leaderless resistance definitely works if crime and sabotage are your goals. I don't think it does much for mass movements. Face it, it takes commited people to commit crimes. Those are the few individuals at the top of the J curve. Everyone else is just a hanger on, not quite a free rider but out there in the long tail feeling sympathetic but not willing to take risks. If you want a mass organization that can make your cause popular, phantom cells with their secrecy aren't going to do it. True, Beam says that groups are needed to indoctrinate newbies who then graduate to the clandestine world of phantom cells.

The fact is mass movements do make it. Sometimes they make it by just plain being popular and gaining the ear of politicians. Think of the MinuteMen and their allies. There are plenty of politicians who are happy to get tough on undocumented aliens to win public support in their districts. Congress just passed a bill to build an unfunded wall between the United States and Mexico to keep the illegals out.

Then we have talk radio and even sports radio. Let's start with my favorite racist demogogue, Chris Krok. He's on every night from 10pm to 1am. He rants endlessly against illegals. Here is a satirical letter from the web site.

Of course, Chris can speak out openly against illegals, speaking out against blacks is harder. There are some things you just can't say unless you are sitting privately in a living room. When they say things against blacks you always wonder what they say against Jews, but we'll save that for another blog. During the weeks when the courts were overturning Georgia's new voter ID law Chris ranted in favor of the law. Now the law required a driver's license, state issued nondriver's ID, passport, or similar ID rather than say a work ID which was OK before. This sounds fine until you realize that urban blacks who have migrated back down here from places like New York often don't drive. The same is true for the poor and the elderly who in Georgia are often black as well. What makes matters worse is that outside Atlanta, it is often very hard to get a nondriver's ID. Some counties do not have motor vehicle beaureaus and those that do often have them in out of the way spots unreachable by public transportation. A passport is actually easier to get and it acts as my nondriver's ID here in Georgia. A passport costs money and takes a few weeks to get processed but one can apply for it at a local post office that is within walking distance. You can see why the judges overturned the photo ID law. Raving against the judges was clearly well disguised and reasonably polite racism.

Then we have the issue of sports. WSB, which is our local clear channel radio station is the home of the Georgia Bull Dogs (UGA way up in Athens) and totally ignores two very large Division One schools, Georgia State and Georgia Tech. UGA has been a historically segregated university has have most universities in Georgia but Georgia State probably has a higher black population and Georgia Tech....well it's an engineering school and while it is very friendly, you can't expect Joe Sixpack to root for a bunch of geeks. It is OK to pick your sports teams. It is just not OK to say why.

Then we have, rabbel rousing protoFacist, Michael Savage and his Savage Nation. What politicans can not say, talk radio show hosts can and there are plenty out there who will listen. By the way, Mike's site does not have a forum or even a blog that takes feedback. He's a bit of a lightening rod and probably doesn't want to deal with vandalism issues, but who can blame him.

The important point is that the uglies have the airwaves and while a few hot heads who want to commit crimes might resort to leaderless resistance, for the rest a charismatic mass movement packs them in.

OK, I have some foreign events related questions:

First, was the Orange Revolution (now sort of defunct) in the Ukraine carried out smart mob style with lots of cell phones?

Do you think Hezbollah used smart mob technology and swarming on the field of battle against the Israelis in Lebanon this summer?

Inquiring minds do want to know.

And while I'm at it, let me add in an interesting link about Wal-Mart. Apparently every body shops there which may not make the bornagain Christians too happy, and remember those lawn signs I talked about a while back, well here is an article about them that made the cover of the New York Times. Enjoy....


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

Haldis is one very unhappy team manager. I fell asleep and woke up at 3:30am and let Haldis go score her team, when it rejected her password. If you click on the team link, you will all ready see what happened. I don't know how or why. I think Haldis is the first one to see it. The Web Leagues put all its fighters on mailing lists that are on the server. Those lists are unreachable tonight. Haldis just found an outside address for one of the competition owners. He is not the one who pays the bills. Some hierarchy is needed for site fighting.

I would hate to be a Webleagues fighter with a serious campaign tonight. So far none of Haldis' team have gotten in touch with her.

I have six people in my Wallop network. I also planned to do some uploads and still may while I am getting dressed to go to work. I can't hear the uploads at home but I can hear them at work and they give me more invites which I am going to start handing to any one who looks interesting. I seem to be more excited about Wallop than most people. Oh well....

Well I finally finished Trippi, plus two other readings. Here they are.

Excerpts from Joe Trippi, The Revolution will not be televised, P 201-236

Networks, Netwars and the Fight for the Future (pdf) by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt

Narratives of Possibility: Social Movements, Collective Stories, and the Dilemmas of Practice - by Joseph Kling.

What can I say? If other things weren't happening right now in the early morning, I would be all fired up to have some fun with these readings. Let's start with Ronfeldt. I still could not figure out what a networked organization is. I think except when I worked as a peon, I have always worked for organizations that were networked. They were small (or relatively small). The hierarchy was relatively flat. The direcor was down the hall etc..., and news spread like wildfire. Even in the days before e-mail we kept and used a day book in most places and people were always poking noses in each other's offices. Office doors were nearly always open as well. Maybe somewhere there are huge hierarchical organizations. Maybe they were always a figment of someone's imagination.

There is nothing magical about networks. Given a mole, who has the ear of a node or enough garbage, you can poison one. Watts, talks about diseases and mania spreading through networks. Think of glurge and chain letters as well. Actually, taking out a key node can take down a network. Watts uses the exmaple of the power outage of 1996. You may not get the whole network, but you may get a big piece of it.

What scares me more than a bunch of people forming a spontaneous leaderless but still orderly network that just coalesces and does things, are secret networks and underground societies. You simply don't want to share everything on the net without encrypting some of it or just holding back information. You can watch me rip up readings any day of the week, but do you hever hear about my job on this blog?

Actually, Aquilla and Ronfeldt, are smart enough to say you can't do away with hierarchy. Someone has to pay the rent, rent the web space, rent the office, talk to donors. It is great to have a group with no one in charge. That means no one to blame should the group act badly, but given the way the world works this is a fantasy a good deal of the time?

Actually, there is a Brainstormish dream perhaps of a world of secret leaderless network based communities founded on trust. This sounds great, but you know what I say about community. Community is evil. It is evil because it excludes and leaves disgruntled exmembers and nonmemberse in its wake. Well, this is the ultimate middle schooler's fantasy, a community so secret you can only get in to it by knowing or being one of the right people. It has no leader so there is no one in charge you can even contact to ask for admittance. The community comes together, does action, and flees before it can get in trouble. It has great power and influence and yet is an invisible elite. This is great if you are a member of the elite. If you are not, as I am not, well......

Now on to Kling. I had to wade through communistic left wing jargon again, but oddly enough I agree with Kling. We live in a world of conflicting individual stories that add up to conflicting group stories. Now I don't believe in social movements, but when I got kicked out of Brainstorms, I rewrote several of my personal stories. One of them was the property story. I had been one of the best sampling thieves in the business. In my mission of vengance against all things Brainstormish, I became a staunch defender of private intellectual property. Put simply: those who respect people respect their property. If you meet those who would take property, they are also those with a low regard for their fellow human being. Therefore, bootleg software, peer to peer exchanged music, stolen graphics even for sampling are wrong. I bought a sketch diary and I got rid of all my Napster files. I am proud of what I did and the change of heart I've had in my beliefs. I think I am a more moral person now due to my stance on intellectual property.

Actually, Kling's idea that you can liberate the masses by getting in to their social movements and leading them is really smarmy and patronizing. Face it, if you can't be friends with people, you have no reason associating with them to help them. That's charity, not solidarity if one believes in such things. Also, you can't help people whom you don't respect and who aren't your friends or at least acquaintances. I do check my discomfort level with MSN Groups. I occasionally shy away from what makes me uncomfortable, but where people write about themselves, I can find some common ground. They in turn seem to be civil. Where it goes from there, who knows, but I can't just walk in there with something to give but refusing to receive. This reminds me of the very kosher people I know who will invite me to their homes where I will partake but not eat in my kitchen because it is not "kosher enough." That is not a friendly situation or one where you will get another person's ear let alone a whole group's ear.

Now let's get on to Trippi. So far, his future predictions are a bit late in coming. Cooruption and a public who in 2006 (This was not so in 2004. Bush was a popular war President) are sick and tired of the quagmire in Iraq and even more tired of corruption invovling a moralistic Senator flirting with teenage interns as well as a fair amount of garden variety bribery. Back when the war in Iraq was young and new, most people I knew used the net to access the wire services and CNN because these had up to the minute news. Even I who suspected the President was lying, was making an educated guess and knew I could be proved wrong. Later on, the lies came out but not before over a thousand of our boys were killed.

Trippi's version of "democracy" has not appeared and for very good reason. This is one sharply divided and polarized country. They joke about red and blue states, but there is a ton of truth to that. Trippi may gush over his idea of a Mustang community, but how many people can afford a new car that isn't bought off the lot or else not quite new? Only those with the bucks would be in the Mustang club. Similarly, most cities and towns do not have grocery delivery, let alone internet grocery ordering. The elite in some ways, and Joe Trippi is one of them, are very out of touch with Joe Six Pack. My favorite Trippi example of a good corporation was UPS picking up food and toys at Christmas time. I felt like saying: "Duh! Trippi! Where have you been. The post office, the supermarket (Yes, we have Publix where shopping is always a pleasure), and the local mall do this." Petsmart is a classic good corporation with their in store cat shelter which has animals from local rescue organizations and their dog days on Saturday.

A very good example of a fake "good corporation" is Whole Foods. They have tons of social activism stuff on their web site. Of course if you are pro genetically modified foods as I am that kind of comes a bit of a blow. I try to buy some of my grain products in the supermarket so I can include some of the new crops in my diet, but that is another story. None of the fine social activism information (and the Whole Foods site does not have either a forum or a recipe board but there is good reason for that. People who are passionate about food fight over the subject.) there is a very telling saying, a narrative if you will, about Whole Foods. It goes: "Whole Foods whole paycheck." Having a reputation for being expensive cancels out all the good image. Rip off parlors are still rip off parlors. By the way, Whole Foods does carry some reasonably priced items. A good consumer knows when to go across the street to Kroger's.

A much better example of a corporation with a community is QuikTrip. The site even features mix-it-up fountain recipes. I have my own favorite that begins my day. A day without QuikTrip is like a day without sunshine. They say that they take user donated recipes. Maybe I'll send my favorite mix-it-up concoction in.

The problem with a world of net communities that could respond popularly is that it would be a very very divided world. Even Wal-Mart would have its community and its fans. Count me in as one of them. When I was in Wal-Mart Saturday night I saw they had board games for eight dollars and a Wal-Mart employee who either was working a second job or just not making very much money bought one. Selling inexpensive Christmas presents that working people can afford, being open long hours, having a pretty good selection and rarely being out of stock make Wal-Mart a good neighbor. When you are good at being a discuount department store (and only mediocre at being a supermarket except for a few items) you are good and I think a lot of people appreciate competence.

Even tobacco companies have fans. Think of all the people who buy Marlboro gear. If you don't know such people, you've only hung out with the elite of late. And please save that epithet I can almost see ready to jump off the tip of your tongue about who you think the people who buy Marlboro swag are. They are working class usually white people. My neighbors in this complex right now have swag. I saw some get delivered the other day.

And on political issues, the public divides even more. Kling is right about conflicting narratives. Sure we all want government health care, or do we when we see what it will cost and that it might have to be rationed. It would be rationed differently than it is now, but if you have a job and insurance, your present set up might be better. We want to balance the federal budget until all the discretionary spending dries up and all that is left are entitlements and debt service. Beyond these two issues, it gets worse. Do we just pull out of Iraq and leave a vacuum and a nice big terrorist breedig ground? What do we do about North Korea? Then we have sprawl (There are people who happily want that big piece of property and are willing to make that long commute and who would consider living in a new urbanistic community torture.) versus the new urbanism, abortion, education reform....

My favorite campaign narratives are about food, though this election did not have any. Florence King in the National Review wrote about how the Kerry crowd were a bunch of salmon with peach/mango chutney eating elitists while Bush was in touch with the real America. People also made fun of Theresa Heinz Kerry's Constant Comment spice cookies. I had to laugh since my schul used to serve salmon with peach/mango chutney for its fancy dinners. It was delicious. As for the Constant Comment cookies, I have fond childhood memories of Constant Comment tea and there is a recipe for cake on the box that is made with the tea so the cookies aren't one bit off at all. I like my food a bit classy when I'm not patronizing QuikTrip.

Then we have the bottle of milk story. This one won the 1992 elections. Quite simply someone during one of the debates asked George H. W. Bush what a bottle of milk cost and he did not know. I at least would know what a box of powdered milk costs. Bush I, however, lived in a hotel and was so out of touch, he did not know the cost of a bottle of milk. Clinton was a master politician.

Of course people who can't sit down and eat the same food aren't going to make much of a community on the net or anywhere else. In fact there might be rival communities. Will net politics polarize us further and will secret leaderless elite communities try to pull the strings? Well, not if I have any say about it, but that is another story.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

Well, today I make sure I read Trippi or do some drawing so I have something to add to my groups on MSN. I have kind of given those groups short shrift this weekend. That is not good. I have errands to run. One is to buy sundries and bread at a conventional grocery store. The second is to go to Farmer's Market. The third is to go to Utrecht's Art Supplies. The question is in what order to put the these things together. I would also like to eat lunch out. Farmer's Market has great food, but lousy drinks. There are many other restaurants at many other shopping centers. I also want to buy some fleecey socks in Dunwoody. I can do the sundry shopping up there and eat in any number of places. I guess I should let the weather decide. I also need to make more drawings.

I would also like to say RAOK is back as I said last night, but I have yet to see one message on the mailing list. It is time to visit the member pages and see what they have to offer. I also want to add more tunes to Wallop. I have five Wallop invites. I'm going to put them up for grabs on my email discussion lists. I may find no interest but it is worth a try. I could also invite a couple of the Christians who correspond with me regularly. They might shape up Wallop a bit. Most invites don't bear much fruit. I think my mom when she joins Wallop will find the interface unusable. It really is designed only for the fanciest machines and connections. Someone was not thinking of Joe Six Pack when they put Wallop together.

How long can being an exclusive club, make Wallop compete with MySpace, Hi5, Friendster, and other such groups. What is the point of such groups when it is so hard to meet people who are new. Who wants to see the same old faces all the time?

I feel about writing a very self censored piece last night. I don't want to make lashon hara about where I go for services, but I need to write about the place. If you are a devotee of this blog, you'll know where it is and who I'm discussing. That is a problem. I don't really see a formal way to change things. I do not have the status or the trust to change things. I will offer a way to change things here. If any one reads this who feels insulted because they take it personally, then remember I will do what I am offering. I have tried asking around and have mentioned things obliquely at tables. No one has listened. If you listen, I will make good on what I offer to do.

Quite simply, our food is not very good. That is a crying shame in any Jewish religious establishment. It is a crying shame because culturally Jews pride themselves on serving simply the finest food around. My wretched schul back in Columbus, GA, put on schul do's that put the country club to shame. Thsee were potlucks and the rule was to outdo one another with fancy casseroles, salads with exotic ingredients, smoked fish, and other fancy flourishes. Jews routinely engage in buying trips to purchase delicacies, something Christians in Columbus found weird. Whether it was rice snaps , wild caught salmon, roast eggplant, honey roast grind your own penut butter, herbal tea, moqua squash etc, or even varieties of apples that never made it to Columbus, it was not at all unusual for Jews to make a two hundred and twenty mile round trip to procure commestibles.

The food where I go to schul is artless. It is edible though I would not eat leftovers there for reasons I won't state here. Unless we have a "catered spread" the menu never varies. This is boring. This is sad. It is not particularly healthy. The only fruits and vegetables to routinely appear are ready made cole slaw with a very sweet dressing on it and jalepino peppers. I don't count the sacramental grape juice. The rest of the buffet is: challah rolls, tam-tams (which rock!), ready made humus, egg salad, cold cuts, cholent (which includes neither carrots nor peppers), eggs that have cooked in the cholent (These are oddly good), and seltzer water. There is usually no dessert.

Of late, there has been an effott to ban soda from the schul because a prominent memeber does not want his children consuming empty calories. This is unfair because some adults, usually males, indulge in drinking hard liquor (straight shots. We have no mixers. Chassidic and American drinking taboos are different, and I respect that difference. It is possible though to honor both sets of taboos. Judaism permits drinking in moderation. What one does with that permission is a matter of debate). This ban has met with rebellion. I import my own soda for personal use. This breaks the carrying prohibition and makes for a situation where I have to flaunt breaking the prohibition. I walk four miles to schul and need the pick me up and besides it is unfair that drinkers get alcohol while nondrinkers (including the children of those other than the person responsible for the ban as well as nondrinking adults) do not get a festive drink. Soda is a traditional nonalcoholic festive choice. Besides, part of handling alcohol responsibly in the American tradition (taboo framework) is to offer a variety of good nonalcoholic choices.

Kashrus is to blame for the poor state of our schul food. Kashrus is not to blame because it restricts the variety of what we can serve. Kashrus is not to blame because we must have pareve accompaniments to fleshig food. Atlanta has the best food for hundreds of miles around. This is the city where I used to travel four hours round trip to buy food. The side of Kashrus I always could not stand and which I feared and argued over is hard at work spoiling what could be one of the finest kiddush buffets going

Here is how it works. In a schul that is less strict, pot lucks are a common occurence. People are told no meat usually to make providing a kosher spread simple and the affairs are held in someone's home to keep the schul kitchen kosher. Since no one is that strict everyone can eat the food and competition sets in. Great food is the result. For affairs held at the schul, the food committee and the cook take over the kitchen. They buy some ingredients locally and bring some in. The more people are willing to actually cook, the better the food. Recipes come from people's homes and the food can still be excellent. If those controlling the kitchen are on crazy diets and impose their will on everyone else, the food can turn weird and ugly. Monopolies over schul food make for bad schul food.

Well, chabad is glatt kosher. That means everything needs to be fixed either at the parsonage or the schul. In this case it is the schul, and the rebbitzen is out of the cooking business. Three or four guys do the cooking and they cook nothing. The stuff comes in ready made. There is no way to contribute other food or food prepared off the premises due to Kashrus and the fear (even if one buys only kosher ingredients) that the kitchen in which it was prepared is not kosher enough. I keep kosher enough but my kitchen is not kosher enough to fix anything served in the synagogue.

The men who do the cooking, aren't cooking. They do not make salads themselves. There are hundreds of good vegetable salad recipes all of which are pareve and kosher. They could provide fresh, canned, or dried fruit for dessert or even a fruit salad. There are good macaroni (pasta) salads. There are excellent salads containing green peas or cooked beans. None of this is expensive and I WOULD BE HAPPY TO DONATE BOTH INGREDIENTS AND LABOR. MOST OF THESE DISHES CAN BE MADE AHEAD ON THURSDAY NIGHT. to add more and different vegetable salads to the buffet and get a rotation of them going. I would also provide fresh fruit, fruit salad, or canned fruit. Cold roast beets by the way make another good dish. There is my offer. This would improve the quality of what we eat a good ten fold.

Now I want to tell more tales out of schul. We had a lot of rebbitzens, schluchot, at services. I watched them. They are younger than I am. They were well dressed, but did not wear walking shoes for walking to schul, but insetead wore gorgeous heels and modest colors, below the knees skirts (standard go-to-meeting), long sleeved shirts, and had lovely hair in kind of lng Dorothy Hammels. It took me a few minutes to realize I wasn't looking at their real hair, but at fluffy expensive human hair wigs or very good imitations, hot, uncomfortable, hair pieces that cost over a hundred dollars. For some reason, the rebbitzens remind me of little sisters in a fraternity. Maybe it's all the drinking, but I tend to think of my schul as Chi Beta Daled. No secular female in her thirties would want a husband who still lived at least some of the time like a frat boy. I wonder what happens to the chabad daughters who don't want to go this route.

A couple of weeks ago, the Rabbi's daughter asked me if I really walked to schul. Oh what do they say about me at home. I told her I did, all four miles. So what.... People do such things. I have my differences with my schul, but I still go there. I like the fellowship and the prayer. I don't like the invisibility of being a single childless female in her midforties, but I'm not sure how I would feel about all of my adventures in Judaism were I male. Being invisible gives me freedom I might not have if I were a male. Oh well, I'll leave that as the subject for another essay.


by Eileen Kramer

I had a VENGANCE VICTORY. I shopped at Wal-Mart. That is nice and anti-Brainstormish. Besides, they have great stuff for great value. No, I'm not going to talk about Joe Trippy's ideas. I want to wait until I've finished the reading. I was running around way too much today to do that. One thing about Joe Trippy though is he makes me very cognizant of the way businesses do business.

I got to walk through Macy's tonight up in Dunwoody. One thing I noticed is how few of the purses have nice long shoulder straps. This is a safety issue because you are a lot safter walking at night with your feet in comfortable shoes and your hands free. If something attacks you, you have the option of running.

Of course I managed to come home fully encumbered with a new door mat that cost me all of ten dollars at Wally World. The old door mat goes in the garbage tomorrow. It is really worn and disgusting. Now I have to start sweeping out the common areas now that I have a new doormat of course.

I also a restaurant near Perimeter Mall which served eighteen to twenty two dollar entrees. I guess there are people with money to burn up in North Atlanta.

Let me do a quick run down on Wallop. Wallop encourages other directedness with its design. Your profile is small and your relationship map huge. I realize that the people who put Wallop together think relationship maps are cool but it is possible to be a member who practices self sufficiency which means you have a large profile and an extensive blog but not much of a network. Clearly one size does not fit all. The most distressing part about Wallop is that it is not designed to work well with older equipment. The screen size it requires is either 1200 to 1400 pixels wide. My home computer was set for 840 pixels so I had trouble findig buttons which fell off my screen. This is an annoyance and not everyone has the newest monitor. A person may have an old monitor and be very witty and charming and a great community asset. This design issue, though, might drive away such a user.

Meanwhile, back up in Dunwoody, I saw that the California Pizza place was jammed. They have lots of weird pizza. They have conventional pizza but it is buried deep inside their menu. Atlanta has real pizzarias. I have lived where there was only one pizzaria and it was just so-so. Atlanta has at least two excellent places for real Italian pizza in the New York City style (as opposed to the Montreal style which is what we had in Columbus or the Chicago style. There are several legitimate styles for pizza and any of these will do.) Why go to a fake pizza chain even if it is upscale? There is no accounting for taste.

Tomorrow I get to shop and cook. I get to go to DeKalb Farmer's market. I'm going to innovate with another recipe. I need to get back in to the habit of writing recipes down. Too bad, Wallop does not have a recipe board or other board so that old members can see new members in action and decided to let them in to their networks. Trust, is something one has to earn but with no opportunities to earn it, quite a few people are going to be left on Wallop all alone.

One more important piece of news, RAOK is back. I have access to the members' area and a membership on the group mailing list. I am very pleasantly surprised. I guess this is the reward of being a pessimist and a cynic.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

I promised that I would write something about writing for yourself. How do you start? Well, if you read something you disagree with or with which you have questions, consider this a gift from HaShem, but HaShem doesn't always give gifts. Then what do you do?

Well look at your day. I made a graphic. I was supposed to be following a tutorial, but I can't follow them for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes they ask for downloads I don't feel like making. Sometimes they are complicated and make for hard work rather than smart work. Last but not least, there is the problem that I often just don't want to make the product.

Let me show you a link to the tutorial I wanted to try today. Well, I wanted to try it until I saw the image the thing produced. It is too soft, too overdone, and too muted for my taste. I like brighter colors and why shadow anything as good as a flower.

Still I could make something like what was in the image. There are lots of daisies, especially gerbera daisies I could use for a model. I could then make my own sketch and paint it to make a brighter and spiffier daisy. From there I got two sig-tags

a shaggy gerbera daisy
daisy and diamonds

Neither of these are what is in the tutorial, but I like them a lot better. This is what I mean when I say that I don't share aesthetic taste with a lot of members of my MSN Groups. I've been careful not to call anything ugly, and they in turn have been equally polite. How far can any of us get being polite?

I've experimented with the human form of course. Here is one of my favorite "last word" graphics.

Centurion with the last word

I can play "the last word" but I avoid the cut and paste games. I don't have to criticize. I can try starting a few threads. I have tried to warn members of A8 that MSN Groups are on the way out even if we don't have an exact date. There may be no date. Topica which runs mailing lists is still in business but they have let their service degrade to the point where people have fled it in droves. Stability problems and reports of downages are standard fare on A8's web boards. It is hard to convince people that they don't have to have an official pronouncement to suspect something is happening.

I am a big fan of respecting proper authority and disregarding the word of the crowd which frequently is wrong. Remember how every body thought John Karr was guilty as sin in the murder of JonBennet Ramsey. Well DNA exonerated him. The guy is undboutedly a sick puppy, but a murderer... The Colorado Springs district attorney who ordered the DNA test and the test were the real authority.

Well, as much as I am a fan of respecting proper authority, sometimes you just have to go on evidence. The evidence in the form of some rather severe downages on one server or another, indicate that MSN Groups is not receiving necessary maintenance and that is a very good indicator it is being allowed to die.

Anyway, you just saw me write several long paragraphs with illustrations off the top of my head. I thought of the graphics I did today and wrote about them and thought about them and wrote about my thoughts. Any one can do this and more people should instead of looking at what their friends write and sitting around and waiting for responses. Self epxression is a precious gift. Self sufficiency is your birth right. Use them!

OK, two vengance devoted items on one blog. Way to go! What can I say? I'd like to talk about how communities keep people out or kick people out. There is a continuum between the two as you will see.

First communities can be selective. They can decide who they take and who does not get in. Wallop right now is quite selective. I think my email asking them for an invite went in to the big electronic circular file. Most communities though don't have this kind of gate keeping. They prefer to let any one in and then let the group sort out who stays and who goes.

Now, most of the time, the group does not resort to banning or expulsion of a member who wants to stay. Doing this is a nightmare unless the member you are about to boot is in groups where membership in your group hang out (in which case he/she is covered by a kind of omerto that assures that he or she will not tell his/her tale of woe or badmouth the group) or his/her contacts are all elsewhere so that if he or she sings loud and long of ill treatment it won't get back to the group or hurt it. Make a miscalculation or if the expelled member breaks omerto as I did with Brainstorms and the group has made a mistake.

There are better ways to get rid of a member. You can have members self-select whether or not they enter. Joe Trippy's description of a community for Mustang owners and prospective Mustang enthusiasts excludes those who lack the money to buy a new car or who buy their car off the lot from the dealership offering the best financial incentives. They may think Mustangs are cute but would go for some other manufacturer's similar model if the deal was right and would take a good deal on an off the lot car before buying one with the features they had picked. User input is fine but not everyone has twenty thousand dollars for a new Mustang or the ability to get an auto loan for that amount. Those people would probably not join the Mustang club.

The Site Fights makes who should join and who should not even more explicit with their Guidlines for entry. A site with home chemistry experiments on it, cheesecake sig-tags, or IRC chat links, might just never sign up rather than get disapproved.

Ladies Groups' creeds are also tools to self selection. This is the creed of the group that psychoed Haldis in the fall of 2003. I bet the same bozos are still running it. I can hear Haldis laughing as I read this creed, but any one with a critical frame of mind (You don't have to like every body), who is an atheist or agnostic, who values action above talk and support, might not find True Hearts of Gold appealing. With luck, trouble makers and bad fits simply won't apply.

Of course there are always those who try before they buy with online communities. It is often easy to join and then see if you fit in. It is easy to join and find it hard to find conversation. I go through this with my MSN Groups. There is a bit of a learning curve for me there, but not everyone is willing to climb that curve or even admit it exists. This means that any group creates a cadre of poor fits who become silent or inactive mebers or if you prefer lurkers.

The way to sweep these bad fits out the door is an ACTIVITY REQUIREMENT. The group that psychoed Haldis has just such a requirement. Members who lapse in to disgusted or ill-fitting silence violate the activity requirement and group managers can kick them out fairly bloodlessly. Most MSN Groups with activity requirements, have daily sign in threads or boards or ice breaker topics that makes the first part of participation easy. Of course most people if they later find they have very little in common with the rest of the group, cease using even these easy threads and then the group management simply purges them for inactivity.

Some groups do not have an activity requirement. The Perfect World acknowledges the fact that most people visiting the site never sign up and those that sign up seldom post. Those who don't like it are free to walk away or shy away and that is just fine. Those in charge do not have to waste energy purging members for inactivity or kicking them out over other differences.

Actually booting someone over drama, differences of opinion, or because they have somehow slipped in and are a bad fit is bad news especially if that member wanted to stay and had made an investment. There is always a chance that the booted member will sing loud and long about he injustice. He or she might dedicate her life to vengance as I have done as well. That can be dangerous even if the vengance is strictly legal. This is my blog and I don't shut up here. I own the pass key. This is my soap box, and If I want to pursue topics related to vengance, I can come here early and often and post to my heart's content. Brainstorms, you could throw me out, but you can't shut me up! There is nothing worse than a disgruntled exmember of any community.


by Eileen Kramer

The networked, community centered world that some scholars propose is a very evil place. If you don't believe me think for a minute Community is a loaded word. It conjures up images of a village in bygone times, a place where residents supported each other, only an online community is better. Why? Because those who support you and whom you support share your interests. What could be better?

Individuality is better, but I'll get to that. Community is evil. It is inherantly evil and the more one depends upon a community or network, the more evil it becomes due to the power that you give it.

The reason for this is simple. Think back to that mythical small town. Now try to imagine that you are a gay person trapped in a closet or a Jew who has to travel fifty miles for services or the only person of color. If we go far enough back in time, imagine that you fall in love with the wife of the mayor and the husband who is well respected and has friends finds out. Small towns can be intolerant, claustrophobic and stifling.

Your option of course is to flee the small stifling town. If you don't flee, they ostracize you until you leave. If we go back to tribal times tney kick you out. Community has standards (You can call these trust if you will or norms or whatever). Community has an inside for those who belong and for those who don't there is outer darkness. This is the dark side of community and why fora like Banging Your Heart exist in the first place.

Worse yet, the more community you join, the more likely you will face rejection and that rejection may be from an active community where you have made a lot of investment.

What can you do? The answer is simple. I won't say don't join communities or interact in networks, but make sure you retain your skills of self sufficiency. Learning to make decisions without the input of the herd, expressing yourself without a large audience (or the guarantee of any audience), and learning how to be happy alone are all important skills in a world of tribal and fickle communities.

Wow: I realized I just gave myself a lot of ground to cover. I'll start with something basic: learning to write solo and not worry about your friends network seeing it or spending a lot of time looking at your network of friends.

Yes, you are going to write in to thin air. You are going to do it every day and perhaps twice a day. Why will you do it? Because self expression is more important than community. Remember you always have God as your audience. If this sounds weird, remember God is omniscient so of course you have him as your audience.

Now, the second question is "what do you write about?" You are facing a blank screen and a blank screen is intimidating. Start with a bunch of ice breaker topics. You can get twenty question and fifty question quizzes on the web. Just scroogle them. Then choose two or three for a two or three paragraph essay. Write about your favorite foods. Write about something pretty you saw on your way to work. Write about a project you would like to complete or a vacation you would like to take. Write about vengance against the group who kicked you out. In your writing space no one can tell you to shut up or get a life. If you fear those kinds of remarks, turn the coments off. I'll come up with more suggestions for getting started solo writing in my next post in this category.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

I'm not through with the Joe Trippy reading yet, but from what I've read he is describing one dystopian scenario but I'll get to why in more detail when I actually have at the reading in a day or two.

Meanwhile, let me state: COMMUNITY IS EVIL. It is not evil all the time, but it comes with a very dark side. I tried to join a community today. I doubt they will accept me. I think Brainstormers run the place and I carry entirely too much baggage with which I refuse to part. I can always create a play pretend version so it is no big loss. I fortunately have learned to live without community at least some of the time. There is much to be said for solo operation and play pretend.

As I said before, community is evil and I bet you all ready know why. Community is a place where you belong. It is a place in to which you come like home or a club. Well some clubs are after all very exclusive. Some are secret societies. Some are just for the elite, but seriously would you in your right mind join a club that accepted every body? What fun would that be?

Put another way, for you to be inside, someone else (and it always is someone else) has to be outside. Without some form of exclusivity, there is no community. If you can't kick members out for infractions of the rules, not fitting in, disobeying community norms, what have you, you don't have much of a community.

This means that even with the ownership of a page that is yours, the heavy emphasis on social networks are going to result in a lot of hurt people because some of them are going to find themselves excluded or kicked out.

I guess this means that this blog, Banging Your Heart, and the Veldt are going to be very important. A world of rough justice needs cities of refuge, just like the ones described in the Bible. The kicked out and disgruntled are going to need succor and solace and help with their plans of vengance. Not everyone is going to want to let go and move on. Many will choose the same route I have taken.

Even if it is only a small minority, the age of online community is going to be an age of many wounded souls. The greatest factor in getting kicked out of places is joining them in the first place. The more you join, the more likely you'll encounter an expulsion and the more expulsions you will have. People need to gain faith and inner stregnth and learn noncommunity tools for self expression. I think my boards and this blog are great places to teach those things.

Now on to the graphics front: I have my first bit of Judaica for Hanukkah.

third menorah

There is more to come. I have to remind myself that I am probably the first Jew that many people in my MSN Groups have ever met. Away from big cities and the coasts Jews do not exist in the United States. I also need to get cracking on my drawing.

I can't draw tonight because the kitchen is turned upside down. I finally cleaned it. This means I'll be able to open my box of Tupperware and put it away. This is a VENGANCE VICTORY of sorts. Being a vengeful consumer is one of the most satifying ways to have vengance. I guess this is a good reason for businesses not to foster communities of customers. A disgruntled customer or someone treated badly within the community could always buy a competitor's product and urge others to do the same.

I think I'll be starting out with some basic lessons in play pretend and solo writing come tomorrow. People have to learn how to write for themselves and stop worrying about whether they are inside or outside and about silly fickle things like Friends lists and they have to learn to write and express themselves even if they are not members of the chosen elite.


by Eileen Kramer

I finally have Joe Trippi's book. I nearly got lost on the way back from Georgia State and wandered all over Five Points. Somehow I got home and I have the book which means I get to do the last reading. Next week will be easier. The readings all appear to be online. I have a ton of library books to return, mainly to Georgia Tech.

One thing about being a Democrat and a libertarian liberal (That's how I fall out of the mainstream according to the world's shortest political quiz) despite how Brainstormish that is, is that you don't win very m any elections. This looks like one...well sort of.

I was going to write a long critical piece on Moveon.org, but right now I feel I had a part in something important by attending those Get Out the Vote parties, and calling those answering machines and sleepy Midwesterners. I am still not sure I believe we have taken back Congress.

Of course the problem with Moveon.org is they take campaigners like me and nationalize them. I can still remember that sick sinking feeling when I learned we were not calling Georgians for the gubernatorial race which was contested. The Democrat who was not all that great lost. He lost because Georgia was sacrificed for states with more promising contests for Senatorial and Congressional seats. This may be a great victory, but I live in Georgia. Say that three times fast. Politics is still local. We're stuck with four more years of Sonny Perdue.

Right now I feel like writing a gloat letter to one of our prime drivel suppliers, but I will wait. I still don't believe we won.

Right now I'm listening to NPR as I write. They had Howard Dean on several times. Somehow, he did pretty well in the 2004 race. He is head of the DNC these days. I guess that is a victory of sorts though it's not being President. Given that his own campaign crashed and burned (not ready for prime time!) is he really good at campaigning?

How much difference does the internet make? Sure I got emailed to death by Moveon.org which ultimately got me to go to two Get Out the Vote parties. But those parties could not have happened without some kind of automated centralized database or cheap long distance via cell phones which use traditional 3G technology. This sounds like a fairly traditional campaign. I'm listening to the radio now as I sit blogging. Draw your own conclusions.

In other news, I finally galleried my latest sig tags. This is good for Siggy Heaven where I don't have page privledges. It is amazing how many sig-tags I have made since I became more active with MSN Groups. I could say more but I really can't.

The next siggies I hope to make are going to be Judaica for Hanukkah. I think there are going to be cultural issues. There is also a Christmas welcome page for Siggy Heaven contest. If I can find the time to make a nice image on the inside of a brown paper bag which I'll cut apart to make flat brown paper, I may have something. Basicly the idea is a picture of a person sending their gift via UPS. There would be tinsel or a small Christmas tree on the package counter or next to it, but the main focus is the person delivering the box. It would be a very sentimental set.

I am looking forward to my next colored pencil lesson. I will have some time to draw them in the next few weeks and they will yield the Judaica I want to be truely multicultural this holiday season. I have to remember I am the first Jews and probably the first liberal Democrat many of these MSN Groupniks have ever met.


Monday, November 06, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

I haven't gotten the third reading yet because it is all the way out at Georgia State. Tonight was cook night. I cooked up a storm. I am exhausted. Still I believe in blogging and self expression...so here I am.

Tonight's question is what happens when spontaneous networks and mobile phones reach other modern devices designed to act as gate keepers? Answering machines and voice mail are ubiquitous. Nobody has to be a slave to the phone though I had an older colleague who thought the new manners of not answering phones were barbaric. We even have a phrase: "let the machine take it," and yes my cell phone which is a fairly typical cell phone comes complete with voicemail.

Then we have No Call Lists and caller ID. With No Call lists you have effectively made your phone door unknockable. I think this is unfair because I used to work in phone sales. I therefore, never signed up for the No Call list. I even bought my cell phone from a telemarketer.

Caller ID is a very basic filter. It's not based on reputation except in an abstract sense. It's based more on friend versus stranger. If you recognize the number, you call back or even answer. If you don't...too bad. The gate is down.

Then we have the black lists, white lists, grey lists, and simple filters used to extract the good email and dispose of the spam. Those whose email address I recognize and for whom I have made a rule, get in to my Inner Circle folder. Those in groups to which I belong such as Yahoogroups or other list servs also end up there. Any one else has to try their luck out in the inbox which still collects its share of spam, and used to get a lot more of it before Everyone.net started filtering. Try and reach a stranger with different interests. Try and find his or her email address and then try to have your letter read.

I sometimes think we are getting harder and harder to contact, and setting up networks that rely on trust is not the answer, and this has nothing to do with Brainstorms. The reason trust based networks do not make great networks is: "whom do I trust?" I'm not being paranoid here, just realisitic. To trust someone I have to know them for more than a few weeks. Trust also depends upon what I ask someone to do. If we are all posting sig-tags and fluffy messages on a web board, I don't have to extend you much trust. If money and time are involved, I am going to need to trust you a lot more and to a far deeper degree. Kringle's Kids at LOTH asked first time elves (Those buying presents for poorer LOTHlings' children) to send a check for thirty-five dollars to the head of the group as bond so if they should fail to hold up their end, the kids would still get a gift.

Trust is always going to be a commodity that is in very short supply. Perhaps that is why answering machines, voice mail, and filters are popular but I also think these technologies encourage distrustfulness. It is easy to screen out those you don't know even if those people have something valuable to offer. So much for spontaneous bottom up networks.


by Eileen Kramer

I usually don't blog at work, but I could not resist this article about libel and false information on Wikipedia to every one's attention. A lot of faculty around here don't let their students use Wikipedia and with good reason.

Of course once we get our reputation managers and once those who matters are safely inside their gated spaces such as Brainstorms etc... every one else can twist in the wind while the elite live in an atmosphere of trust and "assumed good will." If there something a bit off here? I leave that for you to judge.


by Eileen Kramer

I don't have any new readings done, but I want to cover some old ground. When I looked in the CIA FactBook a couple of days ago, I saw the largest party in the South Korean legislature was the URI party. Who or what is the URI party? Canada has a third party called NDP and it is socialist.

I DON'T TRUST Wikipedia but here is the lowdown on URI. They are a breakaway faction of the DP/MDP and it looks like President Roh got himself impeached in 2004 but not convicted or convicted and not thrown out of office. Sometimes it pays to follow up on three year old news.

Here is a BBC story on URI and President Roh's impeachment. As I said, a bit of followup is nice. I can do more with LexisNexis and probably will soon.

As for tapping text messages, I'm looking for a reliable web page from a reputable source that explains how it could be done. Of course it is an illegal practice unless the government does it which probably explains why it is not showing up. I'm going to have to take another whack at this on a different night...I know a good database to search for articles on this subject. Too bad it is over at Georgia Tech.

Meanwhile, you can enjoy this article about privacy on social networking sites. Isn't it fun when the wrong people link in to your social network?

I made phone calls for MoveOn.org today. It felt strange to be calling about a race in another state. I'd much rather be working for my local democratic party. All politics are in the end local.

MSN Group Activity Summary

This table contains a summary of all activity for MSN Groups in which I am active and that I don't own. The groups' names are hidden to ensure my and their privacy.

Group Code Activity Comments
N05 Responded to a "hello" t hread.
E02 None.
R03 Good evening "hello" thred
I08 Weather thread.
R05 They had an "I wish" thread. Fortunately, this threa dwas not all sappy.
R01 Answered daily roll call.
L10 Daily roll call
U02 Support (bereavement), rule confirmation, and dual blog.
I06 Played "the last word"
E01 Debuted my candy bowl sig and daily roll call
A08 MSN Developments Thread.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

I need to be transferring my new images from the thumb drive so I can have sig-tags, but instead I need to talk about:

Excerpts from Howard Rheingold, Smart Mobs, pp xi-xvii, 157-164

I read quite a bit more than what was required. Howard is a good writer. I am still going to write the piece I wanted to write, but I'll add more to it now that I've actually read some of Smart Mobs. I'd like to read the whole thing, but it will take a while to order it via GIL Express and I don't have borrowing priviledges at Emory, the only place it was available here in Atlanta.

First, when it comes to wireless and mobile networks, location is everything. What works in New York City, won't work in Old Forge, New York or Opelika, Alabama. The bottom up wireless networks done with one lap top transmitting and another carrying on the signal to make a quilt only cover a few miles and if it's twenty miles to the next town especially in the Adirondacks, talk radio is a better deal or just plain dial up or broadband internet. I suspect that even in the sprawling Atlanta metro area, a bottom up Wi-Fi network would not work because it could not reach from Hapeville to Gwinett County or from Decatur to Cobb County.

Open Wi-Fi is also a big fat security hole.At work, we recently started requiring a campus login and password for Wi-Fi access. No, we aren't Starbucks.

As for being constantly connected by cell phone, that is creepy. I keep my cell phone off to save juice. I did not even have the thing with me and feel all the better for it. Now I love my cell phone. It has custom wall paper of a ring tailed lemur on it and an absolutely unique ring tone that I uploaded at Mindful Musings. That said, cell phones are class one nuiscences. I don't like answering my landline which is why Mr. cell phone stays turned off most of the time.

I also read Howard's chapter on reputation management. I found this scarey. Now I've metamoderated on Slashdot and the trusted buyer thing at Ebay is fine, but do I really want someone to check my whole entire online history with groups that "matter" before I join anything. Would I survive a vetting. I have a long list of places that I've been thrown out of. I've had one Neopets account frozen for intellectual freedom issues. I've gotten rather ugly and public about my ouster from Brainstorms which I have every right to be. One of the nice things about the net is you can make a fresh start with fresh people somewhere else and dump your past. With comprehensive reputation management it would be possible to put a black mark on some people for life. Talk about a recipe for running scaird.

Now here is what I always wanted to write:

How to Stop a Smart Mob

Stopping smart mobs is part of vengance against Brainstorms and all things Brainstormish so I've given the matter some thought and fantasized about it. Now I have some concrete methods.

  1. Enforce civlity and etiquette. That means cell phone rules. Every library I've ever worked in has a no cell phone rule. You turn them off or set them to buzz when you come inside. If we catch someone using their cell phone, we tell them take it outside or in the bathroom, though I've even worked where cell phone use in the bathrooms was prohibited. Yes, we had signs for that. Call it Ludditish. I did, but we did enforce the rule.

  2. Private property is your friend. It is easy to become unmobbable if you meet or demonstration on private property. A pro-Israel rally here in Atlanta took place at the largest conservative synagogue in the city. This was during the war in Lebanon this summer and the synagogue provided a haven from counter demonstrators whether they were a smart or dumb mob.

  3. The police are your friends and you support those troops. Well now you have a real reason to support the troops don't you? The smart mobs in the Philippines unseated Estrada because the military sided with them. Well, here in the US when the smart mob is made of the educated elite and we have an all volunteer working class military how much do you think that military has in common with the demonstrators.

  4. Enforce existing local laws. Do you know that smart mob demonstrations are illegal in Columbus Georgia? Well, they are and let me tell you why. When I protested the War in Iraq in Columbus, I learned that for even one person to demonstrate on the public sidewalk, required filling out paper work with my name and address and giving the police twenty-four hours notice. I often filled out multiple sheets, one for each day I protested. I became very good friends with the police lieutennant. This twnety-four hour notice set up works for demonstrtions of fifteen or fewer individuals. Go to sixteen people or have a protester who brings his/her small children or a baby in a sling and you violate the law. The police can tell you to disperse and if you don't disperse, they arrest you. Columbus, is not shy about putting SOA protesters in jail and that's where you'll end up too if you don't go quietly.

    For demonstrations over fifteen it gets even better. Columbus (Muscogee County) requires a thirty day notice. Yes, one can challenge all this in court, but your smart mob is sitting sidelined. By the way the Seattle smart mobs just showed themselves to be a bunch of dumb rowdies. The WTO is still in business and their next meeting was in Doha Qatar, a nice unmobbable spot. Seattle's finest did not support the protesters. The United States is NOT the Philippines.

I think that cell phones can be tapped. I know taht Wi-Fi signals can be jammed and/or turned off as well. All this throws the kibbosh to any forming smart mob. I'll do more research in to the technical side of stopping smart mobs and publish what I find soon. I don't have access to anything that is top secret any way.

Of course if you come from a certain class and have a certain amount of geekiness in you, it may be hard not to join a smart mob. As someone bent on taking a stand against all things Brainstormish, I have to watch I don't engage in any smart mob activity. In my case, I keep my cell phone turned off most of the time and I have an older phone, no blue tooth and though I can text, I don't know any one who sends SMS messages. MoveOn.org is able to run its phone banks due to cheap long distance phone service via a cell phone provider, not some smart mobbish bottom up hippy dippy network. I also suspect Moveon.org is pretty old fashioned and hierarchical, but I do wonder. Oh well....I'll be joining the old fashioned Democratic party for the 2008 election so I can steer clear of any smart mob activity.


Friday, November 03, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

Here is tonight's reading. The other two are at Emory which is private. That may mean multiple visits unless I go to Georgia State to get one of the readings, a real possiblity since I don't want to live in the Woodruff Library. I have fairly ugly memories of Woodruff as a potential landlord who would not rent to me in Columbus because I had three cats. I remember stuff like that.

First Hand Report on the Korean Election by Jean K. Min

Well, what can I say. A phone bank and an anarchic newspaper with no proper editor and fact checking saved the day and put the old guard out of power in South Korea. Right? Well that is what one thinks unless one gives this article a closer read. Of course reading it is not easy since it is not in print friendly form. A cut and paste to a Word document remedied that. I forget how hard life is for graduate students some times.

Well, I started asking questions. First, what is so special about a get out the vote effort done via text messaging in a country where everyone who is any one text messages? We've had get out the vote phone banks for years in this country. In the days before cell phones some fat cat would lend his or her office space and you'd go in at night and call using a script. I did this when I was seventeen years old for that raggle taggle Republican party back in Westchester County. This was back in 1979. This just feels to me like politics as usual.

Yes, the President doesn't like the press. That is sort of sad since a partisan press is normal in many parts of the world and a lot of Koreans read the papers. Well, one would think a lot of them do so this meant a lot of people might not have voted as the young netziens did...I started thinking as I have often thought when doing readings for this course: "what were the real numbers?"

Well, this is election in Korea was three years ago, surely someone had counted the votes and totaled the percentages. I thought about going to Wikipedia, but I know better than to trust an encyclopedia with no central authority. Instead I headed for the same place I'd send my students:

The CIA World Fact Book

Here are the Korean Presidential election results for 2003.

ROH Moo-hyun (MDP now called the DP or Democratic Party) 48.9percent
LEE Hoi-chang (GNP or Grand National Party) 46.6percent
Other 4.5percent

I don't have to tell any of you that forty-nine percent is NOT a majority, and that a hair's breath two point three percent win is NOT a landslide. In fact, two point three percent is inside a lot of margins of error. This is recount territory. In the United States, this election might have found itself being decided by Congress or the Electoral College. Roh's win in Korea was a dead heat.

And it gets even better. Here is the break down for the Korean National Assembly. Thsee are percentages of all seats held by political party. This is a unicameral legislature and it elects all its membes at once for four year terms. The election that brought most of the members to power was April 15, 2004. The Presidential election was December 19, 2002. This meant the young netziens had an opportunity for another chance at victory. Here is the party breakdown in the Korean legislature.

Uri Party 51percent
GNP (Grand National Party) 41percent
DLP (Democratic Liberal Party) 3percent
DP (Democratic Party, formerly the MDP) 3percent
Others 2percent

And here is the number of seats by party Uri Party 144
GNP (Grand National Party) 127
DP (Democratic Party formerly MDP) 11
DLP (Democratic Liberal Party) 9
ULD (United Liberal Democrats) 3
independents 5

Apparently, the young netziens of Nin's article were NOT interested in electing representatives to the legislature. Roh has not only a very slim mandate, but very stubby coat tails. I'd also like to know about that Uri party which seems to have most of the seats in the legislature yet which did nto field a viable Presidential candidate. Clearly Korean politics is very different than politics in the United States. It is a valid question how much you can compare the two and I don't know the answer.

One thing I do know is that Nin's article looks very different when one has the actual numbers in hand.

Now on to other subjects: I took a frame challenge for I06 and made a sig-tag this evening. The problem was the original frames were hideous ornate things I would never even consider using. If other people want to use them fine, but I could see no use for them except to cut one of them up and...

a big red ball of corepsis

I now have an official Board Buddy on U02. This feels good since she is a lovely articulate soul. I thought I would have a trip to Athens (that's Athens Georgia) to report on, but it looks instead like I'll be going to Emory and Georgia State after services tomorrow.

I also want to keep doing my own drawing as much as I know doing tutorials (tuts for short) and challenges is helpful for becoming more a member of these groups.


by Eileen Kramer

It is great to have a night off from readings, even if Haldis has to put her comp to bed. I went and saw a lecture after work. It was right downstairs from where I work.

It looks like I'll have to go to Georgia State to get one of my readings for next week and it looks like another reading is either being given out privately in class or Howard never mounted it. Wikis turn dead links red. Yes, this is sloppy behavior. I can taste my own shame at any glitch I had in my library class.

I want to take one more quick whack at Castells. It is more than possible to fight against networks even in a world where your connections are your strength. Ever hear of Achille's heal? Barbasi at the start of Linked describes a huge blackout on the West Coast that happened the summer of 1996. Viruses, problems, disease, all travel through networks, bad as well as good. It is possible to poison an entire network, and have the network be the conduit for the poison.

Also at least in the short term, networks have bottle necks. My favorite example was when I used to use Vestris as a board supplier for my students. The remotely loaded version of Vestris had cached copies of your board template and the board itself on its machines in Switzerland. My course was nearly always in the spring and in the first weeks of the semester the board sometimes went down. Why did it go down, because there is a single group of routers connecting all the internet traffic between the United States and Europe. Those routers happened to be in New York City. Bad weather, could mean a piece of ice in the router. A soggy router is a most unhappy router. Find a weak point, and you can take down a network, either that or insert enough garbage.

And not all networks can regenerate to the point where they are as good or better than new. The human nervous system is a case in point. Nerve cells don't divide because you only want so many of them connected the right way. If you lose nerve cells, they have to rewire and they form a secondary pathway that is rarely as good as the original.

MSN Group Activity Summary

This table contains a summary of all activity for MSN Groups in which I am active and that I don't own. The groups' names are hidden to ensure my and their privacy.

Group Code Activity Comments
N05 Filled in the "Your Plans" thread.
E02 Discussion about ethnic food.
R03 Thanksgiving recipe thread.
I08 Question of the Day.
R05 Continued plans thread plus Three little words. This thread deals with plans for the evening.
R01 Answered daily roll call I am currently taking a challenge.
L10 Daily roll call
U02 Daily questions and dual blog.
I06 Showed off my cacao bean sig. Board is not accepting posts due to malfunction.
E01 Debuted my Othello last word sig-tag and daily roll call
A08 More MSN complaints...

I have decided that I need to pick my hills to die on. I also have realized that the world would be a better place if we all bit our tongues sometimes. I am biting my tongue from time to time with my groups. The reason for the first tongue biting was that someone forgot I was there, and they aren't used to single childness women who live alone. Being marginalized is not being hated. I'm a newbie. Fine.

Second, there is absolutely nothing to be gained in insulting someone else' aesthetic tastes. I did that and got booted out of Silver Beaches. I wouldn't like it if you insulted my taste so I'm going to call it a truce.

I followed my first PSP Challenge tonight except I used the GIMP. This was for a group that has a daily roll call and not much on its main board except tutorials (tuts as they are known) and challenges. Here is my answer to a background challenge.

here is my answer to a background
challenge

I like the uncrinkled version better. By the way, they did not say that I had to use the background as a background rather than a texture.

The original child's top sig

I'll see how this group receives my participation. I have an important email to write, but want to write it when my head is clear and I am well rested. That is not the case tonight.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

OK, here are the last of the readings.

EDGING AWAY FROM ANARCHY; Inside the Indymedia Collective, Passion vs. Pragmatism, Columbia Journalism Review, September, 2003 /, October, 2003, THE NEW AGE OF ALTERNATIVE MEDIA; Emerging Alternatives; Pg. 27, 3021 words, BY GAL BECKERMAN; Gal Beckerman is an assistant editor at CJR.

Manuel Castells, "Why Networks Matter from Network Logic: Who Governs in an Interconnected World?, Helen McCarthy, Paul Miller, Paul Skidmore, eds, London: Demos, 2004, pp 221-224.

Interview with Zack Rosen, the founder of Deanspace which is now CivicSpace.

Where do I start with this stuff? Stuff like this is the reason I am profoundly sick of doing these readings. Beckerman's article is the exception, but I was even soured on that because getting it involved far more work than it should have. These are dirty sloppy references. I don't know what style the third one is but a freshman at most colleges would get seriously marked down for handing in something that is such a mess.

The reference for the Beckerman article used an abbreviation for the journal that I had to Google. Yes, I could have guessed, and in the end an educated guess helped.Then it was on to find out who had Columbia Journalism Review in full text and thankfully it was on LexisNexis. I still had to deal with the incorrect title which made what should have been a routine search the kind of challenge I get paid to untangle. I should NOT be finding those challenges on a publicly posted syllabus. Blech!

With that, I'll lead off with Beckerman. Her piece was readable and jargon free. I enjoyed leaning about Indymedia, but her article leaves open more questions than it answers. First, what are Indymedia's metrics? Are they as popular as CNN or MSNBC? They probably aren't which doesn't prove anything but if they were one tenth as popular, than that says a lot. That is doing pretty well. Second, is Indymedia preaching to the choir? We know that places like this more or less preach to their own constituency and even Mike Savage has his Savage Nation. It is fine to run a specialized political site, but if you want to mobilize masses of people, a specialized site that reaches beyond your activist buddies or your extremist budies (depending on whether you agree with the politics) is a must. Last but not least, where does Indymedia get its money. Are there secret rich elites financing them? Well, someone has to donate space and real estate does not come cheap. Somewhere there is lurking someone with a reasonably deep pocket.

Rosen is my next target. Deanspace was a failure though probably not really a personal one for Rosen who is still in the software business with an enhanced resume. If you want to build great software for civic engagement, well maybe Rosen deserves a pat on the back but as for doing what it was supposed to do, help get Dean elected, Deanspace FAILED miserably. Dean's campaign imploded on a cold night in Iowa under the hot TV lights. You can argue manipulation but software or no software, net or no net, Dean is not ready for prime time.

Moreover, the entire Democratic campaign for President failed. Kerry was the best they could do. He was better than Bush but that does not say much. You all know about his anti-working class gaffe. You aren't supposed to say that stuff outside of tony living rooms. If I were a parent with offspring in the armed forces or someone with a husnband or boyfriend serving in Iraq, I would feel extremely insulted. Whether that insult would make me vote Republican in a midterm election is questionable. Politics is local and it would depend on the two candidates in my Congressional district, but I sure wouldn't vote for Kerry in 2008.

Did Deanspace do anything to prepare workers for the other campaigns and for the current midterm races? I notice according to the article that no Congressional races are using CivicSpaces. I know that neither Mark "Big Guy" Taylor or Sonny Perdue are using the software. Those are our two gubernatorial candidates here in the Peach State. You can have the best software in the world, but if your campaign is not well organized, you are dead meat. I wish that Howar and Xiao could find a successful political campaign that used collaborative software either open source or proprietary.

Finally, we come to Castells. I'm not sure how to begin to rip in to this piece of bogus claptrap. For businesses, networks can be global and for alliances between corporations it might work. It will work if you have a product or service that is easy to import and export. It works at the expense of ordinary employees via outsourcing and "reengineering" running lean and mean. It works because money is a universal language.

Among ordinary human beings though and even in some business situations, global networks just don't work. Linking is hard, not easy. There are a few weird exceptions such as parents of children with an extremely rare disease, or those who study some arcane academic field, but these just prove the rule. Where there is a larger supply of those with an interest be it making small size web graphics with PSP (or GIMP), or cooking, or learning to best use MSNGroups, it is easy to begin to question the work in linking to someone with whom you have very little in common. This is espeically true as we move to more social situations.

Do I really want to link with a person who does not eat the same foods, worship the same God, speak the same language (Many Americans are monolingual), share the same aesthetic sense etc.... And how about someone who lives four or five time zones to the east. You can't have any evening real time chats. Being half a day apart is really meaningful. You don't call foods by the same names, and we Americans "eat an awful lot of squash." There are of course barriers of prejudice between working childless females and those who don't work and have offspring who have often reproduced in turn. It is not even a question of the childfree issue. I see very little pronatal glurge in most of the groups to which I belong.

Then we have the issue of intellectual property (private property). It takes a lot to seriously honor intellectual property rights and create original work instead of just cribbing from somewhere because it is easier. Seeing the large number of fowards circulate through my inbox and groups can make me dizzy. How do you link and communicate when it is all said and done in a neat little packet...and how dare any one criticize or disagree.

I'm not sure how much political activists resemble MSN Groupniks. My guess is that if they want to mobilize large groups (Castells was speaking of global networks, but let's just say the state of Georgia because that is where I live), you have to mobilize a large group of people with a fairly widespread common interest. That means no more preaching to the choir. That means no upper class gaffes like Kerry made out in California. I don't care if it was a joke aimed at Bush, it was also a very ugly classist crack. It also means something more radical, but I'll save it for another blog.

Oh heck, let's do it here. I am one of the elite. I come from an upper middle class background and am a direct descendent (eleventh generation) of the Vilna Gaon. My family is new money. My dad made the money while my brother and I were growing up. I've experienced student poverty, but that is NOT the same thing as real poverty because one retains one's social class. Somewhere, in middle school I learned I could produce. I got help at home to produce more and better. I learned to write. My mother was a high school English teacher. I also learned to draw though how I learned is a story I don't feel like telling tonight. I received rewards for producing in the form of grades and praise.

By the time I started high school, I was a confident writer. I had five years of French in high school and ended up with a reading knowledge of the language. I graduated third in my class, and went on to Cornell. When it comes to creating, I'm fearless and confident even twenty-five years later.

I am also clueless when confronted by forwards used in place of people's own words and highly derivative sig-tags. Thadea and Haldis both despise cut and paste cheering that goes on at most web site competitions. I have asked more than once "Why don't you draw your own art?" My art is not special. You can see that for yourself. It's main virtue is that it is mine. The same is true for this blog.

I have slowly come to realize that those who do very very well in a reasonably good public high school are a different breed, perhaps like star athletes. The preparation for that low number class rank begins around age twelve. My boyfriend and I have discussed this (and I'm not running for public office) and we call it going under the yoke. This is a gate to upward mobility. This is the beginning of elite socialziation. Getting those grades, the recognition, the attention, and a lot of arcane training in math, science, and foreign language changes one's world view forever.

With the right job, one does not socialize much or link much with those who followed a different path....well until recently. An interest like drawing, making sig-tags, or spiritualism can change all of that. What do you do then? Your rhetroical questions about original drawing or prose stop making sense because you are among those who either do not value original creation, the need to create and produce, or their own work, or I'm not sure what in the same way and to the same degree that you do. I'm baffled. I'm boggled. Welcome to the world of making links.

OK, we have a new feature on this blog.

MSN Group Activity Summary

This table contains a summary of all activity for MSN Groups in which I am active and that I don't own. The groups' names are hidden to ensure my and their privacy.

Group Code Activity Comments
N05 Filled in the "Your Plans" thread.
E02 None Board is not accepting posts due to malfunction.
R03 Joined support thread for illness in member's family.
I08 None Board is not accepting posts due to malfunction.
R05 Started a plans thread. This thread deals with plans for the evening.
R01 Answered daily roll call I could not find any other threads.
L10 Weather thread.
U02 Baby pictures thread and dual blog.
I06 None Board is not accepting posts due to malfunction.
E01 MSN complaint thread and daily roll call
A08 MSN complaint thread.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

by Eileen Kramer

No, I have not done another reading. I want to discuss this in more depth. It was a pleasure to hear one of the secret elite show his true colors. Brainstormers are not the only secret elite around. In a society that pretends to be classless and often acts as if it is, any elite has to be secret in order to keep the idea of a classless "we are all in this together" middle class society alive.

Surely any member of the elite who runs for public office, has to pretend that her or she is an ordinary middle class person who has made good. Sometimes he or she does not have to pretend. We have upward mobility in this country and there is such a thing as being self-made or new money. Neither of the last two Presidential candidates, however, fit this role. Bill Clinton, interestingly enough, did.

What I heard come out of Kerry's mouth or saw in print on Yahoo did not surprise or shock me. Guess what, you don't have to like soldiers. You don't have to like the military. You don't even have to like the police, but if you have a truely egalitarian spirit and believe in the American dream, you don't dislike the noncommissioned men you see in training all over your town or taking courses at your college. You don't dislike the cops who do their job. They are just working people, and when I protested the war in Iraq, I took great pride in the fact that I had a good working relationship with the police. I received their respect and protection and the feeling was mutual. Having a good relationship with law enforcement, espeically in smaller cities, is bridging social capital, but that is going to get a post of its own some time next week. I have no problem with loathing the generals and the higher ups, but the guys on the ground are just there. The ones who commit atrocities or punish prisoners should be prosecuted as should their commanders. The same is true of bad cops, but most cops and soldiers are just ordinary working people. For that reason, they deserve respect.

Kerry's remark was not really anti-military. It was worse. He said that if you don't get an education and good grades you end up in Iraq. He called the average enlisted man dumb, and with an all volunteer army the average enlisted man (not the reservists perhaps) is a member of the working class. Yes, we have a working class too. Of course this is not something any one who is running for office is supposed to admit.

Kerry's remark did not surprise me. I have heard such remrks or veiled references when I used to live in Columbus, Georgia. For those of you who don't know, Columbus is home to a big military base at Fort Benning. That means that you see enlisted men and women all over the place especially on weekends. Those who have lived in Columbus a while and have money studiously avoid the restaurants patronized by enlisted service personnel. There is a very good (the food is tastey and the prices are right) all you can eat place called the China Buffet on Macon Road. You will find it full of enlisted soldiers and their families. You will not find those from the tonier neighborhoods of Sears Woods and Green Island or even North Columbus there. Those people no doubt in their own living rooms away from the public eye speak about "the soldiers."

One of the down sides of an all volunteer military is that those with means escape service. They did this for a while in the 1950's and early to mid 1960's through the college deferment. My father had one of those and then went in as an officer due to having taken ROTC. There is a generation of people younger than me who come out of families where no one has ever served their country. This is the nightmare of certain promilitarist people that there is this class of anti-military people who have nothing to do with the service.

I'm not sure I want a draft or national service with NO COLLEGE DEFERMENTS but having such a draft would do a lot to end the polarization between haves and have nots.

That said, Kerry showed his true colors. I wish I lived in Massachussets so I could vote him out of office. Given that he does represent a fairly liberal state, the Republican who might be centrist would be a good alternative. I hope he does not run for President in 2008. I may be a disgusting snob, but I despise elitism. If a candidate does not have the good sense to keep those attitudes to himself, he belongs back in private life where he can discuss those things with buddies in neighborhoods of tony living rooms on the right side of the tracks.


by Eileen Kramer

I thought I wouldn't blog because I hadn't done a reading but here I am. I figure if any of you in Howard's course are reading this, I ought to present this as a public service. With luck the Columbia Journalism Review article is in your reader. If it isn't, here is a full and accurate cite for it. It is available full text through LexisNexis.

EDGING AWAY FROM ANARCHY; Inside the Indymedia Collective, Passion vs. Pragmatism, Columbia Journalism Review, September, 2003 /, October, 2003, THE NEW AGE OF ALTERNATIVE MEDIA; Emerging Alternatives; Pg. 27, 3021 words, BY GAL BECKERMAN; Gal Beckerman is an assistant editor at CJR.

I haven't started reading it so no blog tonight. Well not really. I went to visit Netmums. I've turned Thadea loose on a variety of mothering cites and this one felt strange. It was very, very British, which I guess is to be expected. I was not sure they'd accept an American avatar or I'd turn Thadea loose there too. Don't worry, I just give her my recipes. I checked the working parents board since Thadea works full time. There is a main set of boards called the Coffee House.

Well, half the people on that board were on some kind of welfare or SSI. I know what ordinary working people here in the US call people on welfare or those who get SSI. "Pigs" is the epithet that comes to mind. Either the moderators rule the British board with iron fists or the British are more wellow about taking government handouts.

In the US, most mothering boards are private or commercial ventures. If you want to find some, just stop by good old MSN Groups. They even have a category for mothering fora.

Well I guess I have readings to do. I think I clashed with people on the managers board. Lull would love it there if he could stomach the ads. The board is mostly female and I gave some advice about the need for inner direction and faith when it comes to low board activity. I know whereof I preach, but when did being right ever save any body. Right now I wonder if they'll throw me off. Easy come. Easy go.

I have been shedding graphics like my cats shed fur of late, so I have more sig-tags than I need, and this will only get worse. I feel like the old time traders among the Indians. I have the coin of the realm or one of the coins, or a whole chest full of coins.

Well, it looks like no one has thrown me out yet. That is a big relief. I'll keep my head down a while longer. What was interesting about the scrape is that its target answered that she was only trying to vent and had only vented once. I did not care how many times she vented. I have to remember that in female style fora, people are not always looking to fix problems. I tend to think male due to my education. Gender issues are important.