Kill The Password

Posted on December 1st, 2012

Kill the Password: Why a String of Characters Can’t Protect Us Anymore | Gadget Lab | Wired.com

The age of the password has come to an end; we just haven’t realized it yet. And no one has figured out what will take its place. What we can say for sure is this: Access to our data can no longer hinge on secrets—a string of characters, 10 strings of characters, the answers to 50 questions—that only we’re supposed to know. The Internet doesn’t do secrets. Everyone is a few clicks away from knowing everything.

Practical Opacity Lives On

Posted on November 29th, 2012

As of today, I have migrated all of the posts from my old site, Practical Opacity, to here. Those posts have been filed under the category of the same name. Practical Opacity formed the basis of what became my book, enough, and it is a theme I’m still very much actively interested in exploring. Therefore, I have gathered all of the items into the same place.

Since this is now becoming not simply a site for my book, but an active place where I continue to post material that explores these themes, there may be other changes as well in the nearish future to best reflect these ideas. Not the least of which is a change to the current domain. I will try to make such transitions as simple to you, Dear Reader, as possible.

The Quiet Ones – NYTimes.com

Posted on November 18th, 2012

“We’re a tribe, we quiet ones, we readers and thinkers and letter writers, we daydreamers and gazers out of windows. We are a civil people, courteous to excess, who disdain displays of anger as childish and embarrassing. But the Quiet Car is our territory, the last reservation to which we’ve been driven. And we can be pushed too far.”

via The Quiet Ones – NYTimes.com.

Name Calling

Posted on October 17th, 2012

I recently had coffee with a good friend. We get together once a week to discuss ideas and enjoy some deep discussions surrounding our respective projects.

In this particular conversation, he brought up the fact that a one word term he often uses, as many in our field do, has become increasingly uncomfortable to him. He mentioned that this word he used to describe a certain subset of people, while in some ways accurate, in many ways he felt was deeply wrong. In fact, he stated, it had become a primary goal of his to eradicate his use of it and urge others to follow.

When he told me what the word was, I understood immediately why he was not comfortable. The word was, in fact, derogatory. Like every other derogatory word, it was specifically charged with grouping together a very diverse set of people, stripping them of their value, their contribution, their identity, and even their humanity. As a person of color, I understood what it felt like to be on the receiving end of such a term. Painful and powerless. As a person in the same general field as my friend, I also felt a sudden sickening realization that I too had been using the same word. Not just to describe others but also to describe myself. I felt shame.

I tried my hardest to figure out how this term, in such wide use, could be functionally different than, say, Coon, Cracker, Gook, Guido, Wetback, Towelhead, or any of the multitude of terms we have used far too often throughout history to deride, belittle, de-humanize, or otherwise put aside the contributions of a whole group of people. Often it is a group that is directly responsible for our good fortunes and well being, not to mention deserving of basic human dignity and respect. I could not come up with a way that made it different or OK.

Now, I could make myself feel a little bit better by resting in the knowledge that I am not alone. That just as he and I use this word to describe people, so does just about everyone else in our field. The companies who’s products we depend on for our livelihood use it. The services we are members of. And we also describe ourselves using this singular derogatory term more than we care to think about. I’m sure others throughout history have let themselves go to bed a night believing the same.

Not I. Just because it is widely used does not make it right. Just because it seems innocuous and most do not take offense, does not make it OK. Because, though we find it hard to admit to ourselves, the intent is to take away value with this term. The very word itself ignores the fact that it is in direct contradiction with the people it describes. These people are creators, doers, thinkers. People who are using advanced tools to do complicated tasks and build the companies that are currently winning the twenty-first century. The very people that, without whom, there would be no Facebook, or Twitter, or Apple, or even Internet.

So, what is this vile, mean, despicable, term that I have vowed from this day forward to try to never use again?

User.

The Joy of Quiet – NYTimes.com

Posted on September 6th, 2012

The Joy of Quiet – NYTimes.com

“Nothing makes me feel better — calmer, clearer and happier — than being in one place, absorbed in a book, a conversation, a piece of music. It’s actually something deeper than mere happiness: it’s joy, which the monk David Steindl-Rast describes as “that kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.”

I don’t think any of us makes enough time to experience the joy of a life lived this way. Yet, we should.

Lagom

Posted on June 21st, 2012

From Wikipedia (and pointed out to me by a reader):

Lagom (pronounced [ˈlɑ̀ːɡɔm]) is a Swedish word with no direct English equivalent, meaning “just the right amount”.

The Lexin Swedish-English dictionary defines lagom as “enough, sufficient, adequate, just right”. Lagom is also widely translated as “in moderation”, “in balance”, “optimal” and “suitable” (in matter of amounts). Whereas words like “sufficient” and “average” suggest some degree of abstinence, scarcity, or failure, lagom carries the connotation of appropriateness, although not necessarily perfection. The archetypical Swedish proverb “Lagom är bäst”, literally “The right amount is best”, is translated as “Enough is as good as a feast” in the Lexin dictionary. That same proverb is translated as “There is virtue in moderation” in Prismas Stora Engelska Ordbok (1995)

Reading & Book Signing Event at Subtext in Saint Paul

Posted on May 7th, 2012

Save the date! I will be having a reading and book signing event on June 21st, 2012, 7pm at Subtext Bookstore in Saint Paul. Subtext is the new bookstore formerly in the Common Good Books location that has just opened. I’m proud to be one of the first author events in the new incarnation of the space.

Place: Subtext Bookstore — 165 Western Ave N, Saint Paul, MN.
Time: Thursday, June 21st at 7:00 PM

The event is being hosted by The Ramsey Hill Association. It is free and open to the public. I would really appreciate it if you can make it down.