Tag Archives: blog

And The Trail Led To Backtype.com…

Let’s face it, commenting is the very soul of the blogging business. If it’s on your own site, it provides you with direct access to your readers. On other people’s websites, it offers you an opportunity to promote your website while adding value to the articles you comment on. But what if you have a thought that is simply too small to make a full blog post, yet is too good to be relegated to the bowels of another site’s comment section?

Backtype fills the gap between blogs and the twitter search engine. It keeps a record of your comments using a combination of your name and site URL. You can even log into the site and claim comments that match your identity criteria. While it is a little spooky that your comments can be tracked this way, it’s important to keep in mind that the Internet is a public forum. If we live in a free society, and we deign to voice our opinion on that forum, shouldn’t that opinion be as public as possible?

The Story of #iranelection

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#iranelection was for many people the top news source for the aftermath of incumbent President Mahmoud Amedinejad’s so-called victory over reformer candidate Mir Hossein Moussavi last Friday. It’s not a new cable news channel, or even a news website. It’s what is known on twitter.com as a “trending topic”, a self-declared association of posts on the micro-blogging site. Every post with the word “#iranelection” self-identifies as having something to do with the Iran situation, be it opinions, links to mainstream news articles, or even first hand reports. It’s a new form of primary historical document, one that combines the intimacy of personal letters, the immediacy of video or sound recordings, and the openness of a mass media broadcast.

Twitter is by no means new technology. I find it very similar the web-based chat rooms I myself used in highschool. What is different about it is that it has repurposed current technology to be used in a unique way. Where other systems wanted to emphasize privacy and security, Twitter emphasizes publicity and openness. Most of the 140 character “tweets” are meant for the rest of the Twitter community and the internet at large. It’s easy to write it off as some kind of narcissistic toy, I’m guilty of that myself. However, Twitter’s status as a toy rather than a serious social networking site probably kept it from being blocked in Iran within the first few hours of the protests. Other aspects of the site, like the 140 character limit and interoperable architecture have allowed bloggers in Iran to deal with shoddy connectivity and the government’s attempts to block communication from within the country.

The result is a riveting stream of human emotion, rumor, and anonymous people from across the globe communicating like they never could before. Take a look at this feed from @Change_in_Iran

from the looks of it they are waiting to arrest all the students! it’s also explains the vans9:14 PM Jun 13th from web

some people are now parking their cars in middle of the street trying to block the vans. #iranelection9:16 PM Jun 13th from web

Police is trying to stop people from gathering around while Intel guys still holding a line in front of the gates #iranelection9:05 PM Jun 13th from web

police demanding people to move their cars and start crashing car windows. more people are coming. I will try to get a better view9:18 PM Jun 13th from web

Down with the dictator! Mousavi, Karoubi; support us! #iranelection9:30 PM Jun 13th from web

my eyes are burning hard to keep them open #iranelection9:46 PM Jun 13th from web

I’m dizzy but ok. some people are getting shelter in the nearby unfinished bank building. police arresting a middle aged man10:11 PM Jun 13th from web

@ahmadinejad no wonder you are OK Mr president 24.5M10:13 PM Jun 13th from TwitterFox in reply to ahmadinejad

it’s 9:54 AM -Amirabad street near Pasargad bank and to be honest I don’t have the courage to leave the roof right now #iranelection10:27 PM Jun 13th from web

There are more accounts like this on #iranelection interspersed with rumors of riot police stings disguised as Moussavi rallies and burning ballot boxes. Some tweets supply the Iranians with lists of proxies to get around the government’s internet filters. A hacker’s toolkit of programs to shut down Iranian propaganda websites is making the rounds. From the rest of the world, there are notes praying for the safety of the protesters, “retweets” of some of the more vital bits of news for fellow bloggers, and criticism of mainstream media outlets for their lack of coverage on the events. To see people communicate like this on such a personal level, the future of totalitarian regimes is doubtful. Any government that oppresses its own people on the basis of the threat of an external enemy cannot survive like this. The Great Satan has no horns or pointed tail, and he’s able to send a twitpic to prove it.

This is not to say that Twitter and services like it are going to replace more mainstream froms of news gathering. CNN doesn’t deserve its own #CNNfail channel for the coverage of the Iran Election. The network has to tread carefully to get the kind of access it has. President Obama had just recognized the USA’s involvement in the 1953 installment of the Shah only a week before. The US would do well to keep its distance and establish that it has nothing to do with the current unrest. Besides, it doesn’t matter whether True Blood is the higher trending topic or the mainstream media has to wait a few dozen hours to report on what it finds. That’s not what this is about. We all have an opportunity now to witness history. If we can’t take to the streets, if we can’t tend to the wounded, if can’t tweet from our laptops on the roof, the very least we can do is watch and pray that freedom wins out.

Mainstream Parenting: A Shelter in the Mommy Blog Storm

As a twenty-something married slacker, I can only observe this parenting thing from the outside, but what I see appears to be a mirror image of high school. It’s subject to the cliques, the cults of personality, and the pecking orders we associate with high school. There is a constant cycle of judgment and criticism over if you have the correct cycles of breast-feeding, sleeping, eating, the  right stroller, the right crib, the right stool consistency! Everyone just seems to be in this mad race to be the crowned the most attentive, most awesome parent on the block. Indeed, the author of “Queen Bees and Wannabes”, the non-fiction book that eventually became the movie Mean Girls, felt it necessary to also pen a guide-book for parents specifically on dealing with other parents.

I find disconcerting the existence of people like Jenny McCarthy, who want to replace routine immunization with gluten-free diets. There was a recent case of a mother kidnapping her son to avoid the chemotherapy that would allow him to live. What’s actually terrifying about these stories is the amount of controversy among parents over whether the parents are doing the right thing. There shouldn’t be any controversy! This isn’t a clash between a mother’s love and the harsh establishment of experts. Kids have actually died from this kind of monkeying around in the face of hard medical facts. However, it’s tough to find a source of parenting info on the internet that doesn’t discredit medical professionals, or professionals of any kind because apparently years of study in a subject can’t hold a candle to women’s intuition. If you love science and you love your kids, where do you go for off-the-cuff parenting advice?

Mainstream Parenting Resources may sound a little non-descript, but who needs a cute name when you’re trying to supply actual information? My wife found it while surfing on Kirtsy. The author, Estherar, is a part-time family physician from Israel who is also the proud parent of 3 children. I love how she takes to task some of the assumptions we make on what’s good for children. One post called “Evolution is not an excuse” picks apart the argument that so-called “natural” forms of parenting are the best because they’ve been developed over thousands of generations by our ape ancestors.

“…our environment today is radically different: most of us live in well-protected houses, many live in climates colder than the African Savanna and use soft beds and heavy covers. The chance of a baby dying of SIDS/SUDI is now greater than being carried off by wolves. Furthermore, the evolution of human medicine and ethics means we no longer tolerate babies dying for preventable reasons. What once was the fittest solution may no longer be the case”

Of course, you can’t attack the columns of modern parenting without some criticism. Estherar responds to many of the comments on her blog, even the ones with profanity. Some people might consider her a little cheeky, but that’s what happens when you bring your knife of anecdotal evidence to peer-reviewed study gun-fight. I realize that no one can be completely prepared for parenting. There’s always something that’ll throw you a curveball. But if you like to take your advice from someone who has an actual degree and can save your life in an airplane at 50,000 feet, look no further than Mainstream Parenting Resources.

The Trip Part 4: Intramuros

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Intramuros, or literally “within the walls”, is the oldest district in all of Manila. It was constructed in 1571 over the remnants of an older Islamic settlement. For over 300 years, it was the cultural center of the city before it was almost destroyed at the end of World War II. The city was rebuilt in the 1980s under Imelda Marcos in an attempt to restore the Philippines’ history and national pride. If one wanted to explore the history of Manila, there was no better place. Whereas the rest of the city had the modern sheen of the 21st century, Intramuros retained the ornate trappings of Spanish colonialism with a few Chinese stone lions for a little Asian flavour. The buildings are beautiful enough on their own, but if you want to experience the history fully, you must employ the flamboyant story-telling of Carlos Celdran.

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Carlos is Filipino by birth, but went to graduate school in America and spent some time on Broadway. His tour of Intramuros is, in effect, a one man show about the history of the Philippines. Aided by a boom box, a large binder of photos, and a small but effective collection of props, Carlos crafts the story of a country built out of a mish-mash of foreign influences into something unique and beautiful. The tone was irreverent and light-hearted. Almost all of the Philippine historical figures get a good roasting. He called Douglas MacArthur a “Drama Queen” in reference to the good General’s penchant for catch-phrases, photo-ops, and political grand-standing.

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I was fascinated with the way Carlos described the darker moments in the city’s history during WWII. In the battle to take back Manila, 6 of the 7 Spanish cathedrals that had stood for centuries were reduced to rubble. Some were destroyed by the Americans as “collateral damage”. Others were destroyed by the Japanese to break the spirit of the Philippine people. In some ways, it had that very effect. This was puzzling. How could such places built by foreign conquerors mean so much to the people they were imposed upon? As the tour went on, Carlos gave us the answer. It didn’t matter which culture was there first or who had stayed the longest. All sorts of bits of culture from Spain, America, China and the Philippines itself had come together to create a place like no other in the world. So, why shouldn’t the Filipinos take pride in things on their land that have beauty and majesty? The Philippines is what is, no matter who had the idea for it first.

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I think that every country needs a Carlos Celdran. Every country needs a person or set of people that can take a look at that nation, warts and all, and use their love and resourcefulness to introduce that one country to the world like a member of the family. People like that make the world all the more worth exploring.

There and Back again

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It turns out there wasn’t much time for blogging out in Asia. I’ve witnessed the solemn beauty of Corregidor Island, and made my way through the shining backstreets of Akihabara. Now that I’m back and jet-lag free, I’ll be spending the next few posts talking about the trip. While I had a blast out there, I think I learned a few things as well. There are lots of pictures, and I even got to see a monkey.