Stop the NRA -- creative commons photo by Elvert Barnes

Gun. Control. Now.

Personal
Stop the NRA -- creative commons photo by Elvert Barnes

creative commons photo by Elvert Barnes

I don’t know how anyone can look at this latest mass shooting and fail to see a crisis around this country’s attitudes toward both guns and women. We needed gun control decades ago. Our government is complicit in these murders so long as they let the NRA bully them into inaction or – worse – actions that actually inhibit efforts to keep people safe from gun violence.

Gun control now.

  • How the NRA Enables Massacres
    In the USA, "we’ve allowed a group of rich, entitled thugs who run an operation fronting for arms dealers—guys who represent a minority position on pretty much every issue having to do with reasonable regulation of firearms even among gun owners—to dictate our policies to cowardly, careerist politicians."
  • Elliot Rodger’s fatal menace: How toxic male entitlement devalues women’s and men’s lives
    "Just as we examine our culture of guns once again in the wake of yet another mass shooting, we must also examine our culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity, which devalues both women’s and men’s lives and worth, and inflicts real and daily harm.

    “I think of the millions of other women and girls whose names the public does not know, but who have been forced all the same — by institutional forces larger than themselves, by systemic and enduring misogyny and racism, by the sheer bad luck of being at a given place at a given moment — to become statistics or symbols of our culture’s profound disregard for the humanity of women and girls. I am reminded of all of them and I don’t know where to put the pain and anger that comes with that. There is no possible vessel large enough to hold it all.”

  • Christopher Michael-Martinez’s Father Gets It Right about Guns
    "The war against euphemism and cliché matters not because we can guarantee that eliminating them will help us speak nothing but the truth but, rather, because eliminating them from our language is an act of courage that helps us get just a little closer to the truth. Clear speech takes courage. Every time we tell the truth about a subject that attracts a lot of lies, we advance the sanity of the nation. Plain speech matters because when we speak clearly we are more likely to speak truth than when we retreat into slogan and euphemism; avoiding euphemism takes courage because it almost always points plainly to responsibility. To say ‘torture’ instead of ‘enhanced interrogation’ is hard, because it means that someone we placed in power was a torturer. That’s a hard truth and a brutal responsibility to accept. But it’s so.

    “Speaking clearly also lets us examine the elements of a proposition plainly. We know that slogans masquerading as plain speech are mere rhetoric because, on a moment’s inspection, they reveal themselves to be absurd. ‘The best answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun’ reveals itself to be a lie on a single inspection: the best answer is to not let the bad guy have a gun. ‘Guns don’t kill people, people do.’ No: obviously, people with guns kill more people than people without them. Why not ban knives or cars, which can be instruments of death, too? Because these things were designed to help people do things other than kill people. ‘Gun control’ means controlling those things whose first purpose is to help people kill other people. … And the idea that you can be pro-life and still be pro-gun: if your primary concern is actually with the sacredness of life, then you have to stand with Richard Martinez, in memory of his son.”

  • I Am Not an Angry Feminist. I’m a Furious One.
    On the awful backlash toward the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter:

    "They don't believe us. Hundreds of thousands of women from around the world can weigh in and tell their first hand experiences and there are men out there — seemingly reasonable and intelligent men — who still refuse to admit that maybe, just maybe, we have good reasons to be afraid. A 22-year-old kid spouts the same misogynist rhetoric that my coworkers and I receive in our inboxes on a daily basis and goes on a shooting rampage with the expressed purpose of punishing women for not giving him the sexual attention he felt entitled to and we're still told that we have no right to be scared because #NotAllMen are like that."

Contact your Senators and Representatives. Ask them to stand up to the NRA – for the sake of everyone you know and love.

The End of an Era

Personal

toyota3

In early 1996, I was 24 years old. I had been out of college for less than two years. I was working as an administrative assistant for a mediator in Portland, and living in a one-bedroom basement apartment in southeast.

In the 18 years since then:

  • I joined a rock band, with whom I lived in a town north of Seattle for a little over a year, touring up and down the west coast for three years.
  • I met a guy, bought a house, got married, and got divorced.
  • I worked my way into and online community management travel writing for the web, when the internet hadn’t even been a thing during my college years.
  • I embarked on a freelance career I didn’t think would go well, and that I still love two years later.

And through all of that, I’ve been driving the exact same car. A 1993 Toyota Corolla I bought when it was three years old, when I really couldn’t afford the payments, but when my existing car was showing signs of giving up the ghost. I put a whopping great number of miles on that car during the first year I had it, driving to Portland from Seattle every weekend for awhile to see the guy I would end up marrying, and the car never failed me. It’s only in the last year or so that the car started using oil to the extent that I’d need to add a quart or two between oil changes.

Still, driving a 21-year-old car around isn’t necessarily the best idea – my mother had been worried about me driving anywhere for some time now. So, at the age of 42, I have just purchased only the third car I’ve ever owned in my life.

honda2

To be perfectly honest, the look of the Fit doesn’t thrill me. But, then again, neither did the Corolla. The thing that made it most challenging to let go of the Toyota, however, was knowing I couldn’t take the Petal window stickers with me. I had put those stickers in my car in 1996 when I joined the band, and (no surprise) I was the only band member left with Petal stickers in the window – my bandmates have moved on to other cars since then.

I am perfectly happy to have a newer car (with air conditioning!), and I’m going to love the great gas mileage, but I’ll always be a little sad that I’m not still driving around advertising my band.

Unless, of course, I manage to convince Ken to make new stickers…

creative commons photo by Alexis Lê-Quôc

Under Construction

Personal
creative commons photo by Alexis Lê-Quôc

creative commons photo by Alexis Lê-Quôc

The end of my street is blocked by orange construction cones and signs declaring that the road is closed. Workers closed the road not long after I moved in. They were already deep into a years-long project extending light rail lines further into the east side of the river. If I thought I would be staying in this neighborhood until the completion of the project, I’d be thrilled. A light rail station within walking distance of me? Excellent news. Since I hope to be long gone by the time the work is done in 2015, however, all I notice are the orange cones.

The road, they tell me, is under construction, and the progress report sign at the intersection tells me the project completion date. Being introspective lately leads me to think that my life feels very much under construction right now, though I have no project completion date. I don’t even have an estimate that I’ll overshoot by a number of weeks or months and over which local politicians will wring their hands. No, all I have are orange cones.

I know that despite my series of rough years recently that I am lucky. I don’t have enough work, but the work I have is work I like, and that allows me to live in a way I love. I don’t love my current living situation, but I know it’s temporary and I genuinely adore the neighborhood in the meantime. I’m dealing with the aftermath of leaving a 10-year marriage, but I am thankful that I had the wherewithal to leave and the support of family and friends when I did.

Despite the orange cones circling my personal work zone right now, I am more optimistic than I have been in longer than I can remember. No, it’s not despite the cones – it’s because of them. Those construction cones represent progress. They indicate movement. They tell me that work has started. There may be no project completion date I can put on a calendar, but it is satisfying to see the orange cones surrounding jagged holes in the pavement, hard-hatted workers hip-deep in the ground, shovels in hand.

Cutting through the surface to reconfigure what lies underneath can hurt, but letting something sour fester there is far worse.

I am doing my best to let go of the guilt, the sadness, the worry, the part of me that was willing to quietly accept unhappiness. There is nothing that offers hope so much as potential, so I am choosing to see the orange cones as harbingers of positivity. What’s under these top layers, what the workers will find when they dig a little deeper, and what they’ll build next – I don’t really know. Whatever it is, I don’t want to be on the sidelines anymore, watching from behind the safety ropes. I’m wading in, hard-hatted and shovel in hand.

Hong Kong City || creative commons photo by Nathan O'Nions

Where Nobody Knows Your Name

Travel
Hong Kong City || creative commons photo by Nathan O'Nions

creative commons photo by Nathan O’Nions

When Marco Polo came at last to Cathay, seven hundred years ago, did he not feel – and did his heart not falter as he realized – that this great and splendid capital of an empire had had its being all the years of his life and far longer, and that he had been ignorant of it? That it was in need of nothing from him, from Venice, from Europe? That it was full of wonders beyond his understanding? That his arrival was a matter of no importance whatsoever? We know that he felt these things, and so has many a traveler in foreign parts who did not know what he was going to find. There is nothing that cuts you down to size like coming to some strange and marvelous place where no one even stops to notice that you stare about you.

-Richard Adams, “Watership Down”

Amuse-Bouches [Links I Love]: April 8 – May 1

Amuse-Bouches

Here’s the latest list of stuff I found interesting on the interwebz, April 8 through May 1:

  • Over 200 Girls in Nigeria Kidnapped Because They Attended School
    Sometimes there are stories that hit me so hard, that hit squarely in the soft spot of one of the issues near and dear to my heart, that I can't even talk or think about them logically. My heart is in my throat the instant I hear them. This is one of those stories.

    These girls were taken on April 16th, and they remain missing. Sign the online petitions (linked in this article). If you're on social media, use the hashtags listed to add your voice to the outcry. Tell your friends about this horrifying story. Keep it in the news until the girls are returned home.

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Welcome to the Finger-Wagging Olympics
    I was glad to hear the NBA acted quickly to ban Donald Sterling for life – until I heard more about Sterling's very public and very racist past. Something about the previous look-the-other-way attitude made me uncomfortable. I couldn't have said it this well, but thankfully Kareem Abdul-Jabbar did.

    "So, if we’re all going to be outraged, let’s be outraged that we weren’t more outraged when his racism was first evident. Let’s be outraged that private conversations between people in an intimate relationship are recorded and publicly played. Let’s be outraged that whoever did the betraying will probably get a book deal, a sitcom, trade recipes with Hoda and Kathie Lee, and soon appear on Celebrity Apprentice and Dancing with the Stars.

    "Let’s use this tawdry incident to remind ourselves of the old saying: ‘Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.’ Instead of being content to punish Sterling and go back to sleep, we need to be inspired to vigilantly seek out, expose, and eliminate racism at its first signs.”

  • Death and Taxes
    The first act of this "This American Life" episode is a lovely portrait of hospice workers & the work they do. It made me wish we had done hospice care for my dad instead of just being at the hospital (where no one was there to guide us through the dying process).

    Having someone on hand to think about the things you don't even know you need to think about, to answer the questions you don't even know you have… It's impossible to overstate the importance of this at a time when your brain isn't capable of dealing with what's right in front of you.

  • You’re a Stranger Too? Have Some Soup.
    My friend Pam captures my feelings about Passover pretty beautifully in this post. It's been too many years since I attended a Seder; next year I need to find one.
  • Iranian killer’s execution halted at last minute by victim’s parents
    The photo of the two mothers embracing & sobbing together is just… Wow.
  • GoldieBlox Means Well But Doesn’t Live Up to the Hype

    "It's just hard not to feel like GoldieBlox has rocketed into public consciousness not because it's a magical play experience for kids, but rather because it gives grownups something to argue about."

  • ‘World’s Most Haunted Island’ For Sale In Italy, Poveglia Is A ‘Crumbling Collection’ Of Abandoned Buildings
    So… Anybody wanna buy a haunted island in Italy? I mean, I'm willing to go halfsies on it.
  • This Pie Chart Is Delicious And Statistically Sound
    In which a baker creates a pie chart of America's favorite pie flavors using… PIE. The actual flavors in the survey, as a matter of fact. It's hilarious & brilliant.
Creative Commons Grand Canyon photo by maureen via Flickr

Building Kommunity

Work

The first draft of this post was written a year and a half ago. It’s been edited quite a bit since then, but the main reason it never got published is – I’m ashamed to say it – I was afraid of how it would be received. I still have no idea how it will be received, but that doesn’t really bother me anymore. And although the landscape has changed since I first wrote this, I think the basic points still apply. And, more important, they still annoy the shit out of me.

Creative Commons Grand Canyon photo by maureen via Flickr

Creative Commons Grand Canyon photo by maureen via Flickr

Here’s the thing: I really don’t like Klout. More specifically, I don’t like what it’s done to blogging – or bloggers.

When I first started hearing about it back I-don’t-remember-when, I was intrigued. Measuring social influence? Yeah, actually, that does sound like it’d be a valuable thing for both bloggers and the PR folks who work with us. But when I poked around a bit more to find out just what the heck they were measuring, I was less enthusiastic. The short version is that social influence is still way more nebulous than any of us really wants it to be, and measuring it based on well-informed gut reactions (by smart people who do their research) still seems more effective than going by a tool like Klout or Kred when the data that’s pulled in is flawed to start with.

Not to mention the fact that I seriously hate how I can’t say “clout” or “cred” – y’know, the actual words – anymore without sounding like a tool myself.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a numbers person. I would very much like there to be a gizmo that would give me a reliable read on someone with whom I was thinking of working or a PR company who had invited me on a trip. Klout or Kred or some as-yet-unlaunched thing may eventually be that gizmo – but, to my mind, they aren’t quite there. That’s fine – perfecting a new tool takes time, especially when the landscape is changing every nanosecond. What bothers me, though, is that so many of my cohorts are already using these tools as if they’re infallible – because, frankly, it fits the downward spiral pattern they’re already on.

When you’re focused on outside (and imperfect) measurements of your community building rather than trying to determine what your community really wants, what you’re building isn’t community. It’s Kommunity.

Build enough kwality kontent, establish enough konnections, and in no time at all you’ll be well on your way to high Klout scores! Dominate keywords (making them look like organik linking), generate kick-ass komments, and you’re a kommunication rockstar! (Or should that be rokkstar?)

We’ve all seen examples of what I call Kommunity building – services that retweet stuff from other people in the “tribe” you joined without you really being aware of it, Twitter streams filled with retweets of the same people in some informal scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours band over and over again, travel blogs that publish keyword-stuffed posts on irrelevant topics to please sponsors or ad buyers at the expense of readers, claims that it’s not at all disingenuous to buy Twitter followers and Facebook fans… There are people I like who do some of this stuff, and it makes my heart hurt. I understand why it might seem appealing, but that doesn’t make it any more palatable.

What we sacrifice when we chase Kommunity is our actual community. Someone’s needs are being met when you engage in Kommunity building – either your personal needs or your sponsor’s – but those needs are not likely your community’s. If that’s enough for you, if building a sustainable and real community isn’t necessary to achieving your goals, then the path is Klear.

Real community building is slow. It takes time and dedication. It requires consistent interaction and availability on a human scale, not a points system. There is no shortcut to community success. You can do research on best practices or hire someone to help you get from 0 to 60 more quickly, but if you think buying Facebook fans is the path to success then you’re in for a harsh reality check.

Yes, there are people acheiving something they’d call success because of their high Klout scores or fake Facebook fans, but I’d spell it “sukkcess” instead. Quick fixes usually end in tears for the people who thought the duct tape would hold, and the worst part is that counting on that shortcut means you’ve spent no time building a sustainable foundation for when everything else comes crashing down.

Think about it: who do you think of as your community? Whose needs do your actions really serve? If the answers you give don’t jive with what you put on your site, then at best you’re just lying to yourself. At worst, you’re lying to your community, too. They’re not stupid. They’ll figure it out. And they’re much harder to get back once you’ve lost them.

The tortoise wins the race in the end. Don’t ever forget that.

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