On Not Out-Thinking Fun (55 of 90)

The post-South by Southwest blues have set in as they do each year. It’s hard to exist in that caldron of excitement and energy for 11 days and not get caught up in it.

Now that I’m home, I need to re-orient myself. To place myself back in a physical reality, away from the fantastical.

A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes. – Hugh Downs

One piece of advice I routinely give is this: don’t out-think happiness.

We spend much of our lives beholden to expectations, convinced we can bend the nature of the world around the wants we have. I’ve found that , at least in my case, to be a futile effort.

I see it in others as well. In the students who sit in my office, near their breaking point, talking with me about their expectations of life. In the friends, kicked around by life, who have lost varying degrees of optimism and hope about the world.

It’s heart-breaking. It’s a story with only one ending, this race to reach our expectations and hunt for the picture we’ve created in our heads.

Expectations seem to be the true plague of humanity.

Everything is ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end. – Unknown

I need timelines and benchmarks.

Read More

Un-Tethered (54 of 90)

A man said to the universe:
"Sir I exist!"
"However," replied the universe,
"The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation."

— Stephen Crane

I’m off today.

There are days I wake up, as I did today at 3 AM, and know I will hang from the side of the cliff, white knuckling. I don’t enjoy these days, but I’ve not yet had the opportunity to let the universe know that I would prefer to not deal with this. Apparently, the complaints line is quite long.

Still, it’s been a day with A Great Deal of Maintenance Required.

I find myself un-tethered from reality, from today. Instead my thoughts of have drifted into the un-changeable past, the place where opportunities have already come and gone, decisions have been made and solidified, and events can only exist as they once were.

There is nothing inherently good about visiting a museum about yourself.


This week I had two endings.

Read More

Adverbs + Idioms (53 of 90)

in consequence of that; as a result; consequently — Dictionary.com definition

It’s 5:20 AM.

I’m sitting at one of my desks, the one the looks across the parking lot and into the backyards of my neighbors. There’s not much to see, though. Mostly I see me reflecting back in the window.

I finally gave up on sleep after laying in bed, sick to my stomach with anxiety for the past two hours. I don’t know why I am up. Or what I am anxious about. There’s not really anything out of the ordinary.

Deadlines are screaming at me faster than I can do the work. I’m trying to juggle travel and writing, which is a complete failure at the moment. I’m working on grading, which is overwhelming me the way it does in weeks 8-10 every semester. I am making time to work out, which is tiring my body to the point where I fall asleep at human hours instead of the middle of the night.

But these are not new stresses.

So I don’t know why I awoke at 3 AM, eyes open and up like a shot. The kind of wake-up that doesn’t lead to more sleep. Or a peaceful day.


because of, by reason of; due to: Schools were closed because of heavy snowfall. – Dictionary.com definition

Read More

What The Health Care Bill Is Really About (And No, You Aren’t A Libertarian) (51 of 90)


I’ve been a Libertarian for years.

There’s a host of reasons for that. The Appalachian heritage. The cyber-culture. My life experience.

Even still, I’ve never voted straight ticket. I don’t believe in that. I believe in looking for the candidate not that agrees with me (because times change, and I expect my politicians to change their minds along the way. Otherwise, why do we have schools?), but best exemplifies the way I think.

The Libertarian way of thinking appeals to me.

Now, though, conservatives have started using this term around in ways that are completely unrecognizable to me.

They are using it – I suspect – because the extremist portion of the party, the Theocracy, pushed their way closer to the mainstream. The deal struck with Ralph Reed and Pat Robertson, the Christian Coalition, seemed like a good idea in the late 1980s. Now, though, we’ve seen the complete radicalization of the Right.

The conservative principles have been hijacked, wrapped around God and Morality, and served up as a Theocratic Party.

So the conservatives have been forced to scramble to find a place to re-take their party. The libertarian philosophy seemed most accessible. So the mainstream conservatives, the people who believed in limited government, fiscal responsibility, strong defense, have started co-opting the libertarian ideal instead of fighting for control of their own party.

They have bastardized it. Make it about free markets and corporations. About divine providence and control of the will. In short, they are trying to turn libertarianism into traditional conservatism.

Because nobody wants to take on god. Not in the Republican Party.

Which creates a framing problem. One we’ve seen play out in this national “debate” over health care:

  • The Theocratic Party has re-framed the health care debate as a moral and philosophical shift of the government (into the godless Socialist and Communist regime);
  • the Conservative Libertarian Party has re-framed the health care debate as a shift from the free market; and
  • the Democrats have not really framed this discussion well at all, instead responding to the attacks instead of articulating their solution.

This is a problem for everyone.


This is a post about health care, though. Not god. Or Republicans. Or the Theocratic Party.

Read More

Quitting Time (50 of 90)

Week 8 is when I want to quit.

Every semester I’ve taught, I’ve had this feeling. Halfway through the semester, the newness and angst of the students and classes have worn away, given themselves over to drudgery of work. The long, dragging, rote work that is required at the beginning of a project. When there is no momentum. When every step is one, slow progression after another with no real end in site.

The only thing staring back at you: the long, empty road to the end.

It’s in these moments that I contemplate my life, my career. As a cajole and push not only the students, but also myself to break through that barrier. I wonder if, in the end, I will look back and think that the sacrifices I made along the way were worth it. Or if I sacrificed enough. Or if I kept one eye on a different road, never fully committing.

Every semester, it is the same. There is no learning curve when you teach because every year, a new set of students appear – ones I (mostly) haven’t taught before. Ones for whom all of this is new (at least in terms of my class). There is no history, no fluidity for them.

For me, it’s become a rote exercise. One that sucks dry my creative energies, eats up my writing time and saddles me with doubts about my (current) chosen profession.


I’m sitting in a hotel in Blystheville, Arkansas, just across the border from Missouri and seven hours from Muncie.

Read More

Visits (49 of 90)

The last few days have thrown my summer into a tizzy. Not in a bad way. Just the way that my life, unattached to things, is sometimes tizzied.

On my way to Austin, I received word that my presentation on “The Living Learning Classroom”, a fancy name for deploying social technologies in a way that allows previous knowledge to be aggregated for future classes (and for former students to participate in current classes), was accepted at a conference in Anaheim. In June.

When I was supposed to be in London.

That’s okay. No plans were set yet so changes can be made. (And I can hustle up the cash to do this, I guess. Anaheim isn’t that far from Redlands and my friend Kris said her house was empty after I left.) Anyway, The Soho Theater is in flux (good flux mind you, but flux nonetheless) so switching things here and there isn’t a problem.

Anyway, it gives me an excuse to spend a good, solid month in Austin. Something I haven’t done in a few years. Something I desperately need to do more often. I’m getting closer to shutting down the travel caravan for awhile and this might help me with that decision.

But we’re not there yet.

Read More

Empty (48 of 90)

It’s 10 pm on St. Patrick’s Day. It’s also the first night of the South by Southwest Music Conference and Festival.

I am home, sitting in my makeshift bed where I have been since 3 pm today after I dropped off the last of my friends at the airport.

I’m physically, emotionally and in every other way possible, drained.

I’ve been running for 2 solid weeks: Arizona, California, Indiana, Memphis, Arkansas and now Austin. I have boxes of research. Stacks of papers. Folders of digital files. Deadlines swirling around me. Conferences coming up.

It’s ridiculous, honestly.

Read More

Why The People Who Hate on SXSW Interactive Suck (47 of 90)

ED Note: I exchanged a few comments and Tweets with Jolie earlier today. She was surprised by the spirited response to her blog post (from the blogosphere; not from me). Our conversation confirmed what I thought: she’s a decent gal. She just waded, unintentionally, into the annual post-SXSW Interactive reaction debate. For all of you out there who have a burning desire to be a hater-hater, please I’d like to offer the paraphrased advice from my favorite judge in California: all parties are advised to chill.

South by Southwest Interactive is over, and with that brings out the annual “Why I Hated SXSW Interactive” bloggers.

This year’s queen is Jolie O’Dell. She wrote Why SXSW Sucks, which has some rather disturbing assertions in it (which have nothing to do with the conference, yet are troubling) and some recycled issues that get brought up each year (which did have to do with the conference, and are also troubling).

I have no idea who O’Dell is (other than what her bio says) any more than I know who most of the people who attend SXSW Interactive are so I don’t want this to appear to be an attack on her. I’m sure she’s a fine human being and I enjoy reading other opinions. So it seems important to say – and then re-iterate – that this isn’t an attack on her ideas.

It’s also important to note that I’ve been to every SXSW Interactive save one (when we were re-launching MIT’s Technology Review website and I needed to be on site), I’ve been on the advisory board for several years and I make my home in Austin (although I teach in Indiana, which means I’m only in town for a few months a year these days).

The problems with SXSW aren’t new, although the scale is different. What is new is the community has grown. It includes a new set of people: not developers, not creators, not distributers. Not the core of SXSW. Now we have the “tool users,” the non-tech set who have built their operations on using the simple creation, distribution and aggregation tools built by the SXSW core.

I love the convergence. The show has been headed this way since the beginning. It’s just reached a tipping point because the ubiquity of the tools. (A great credit to the engineers in the country, by the way.)

Here’s the real problem: This new tribe is disappointed to find that SXSW isn’t meant to be Spring Break. It’s not set up to help you party. It’s set up as a conference and festival, a place to interact. Not a place to get drunk and check-in.

It’s not, in other words, set up to be all about you.


The first Interactive conference, one I can barely remember it’s been so long ago, took place in the far end of the Convention Center, in the area above the main keynote ballrooms.

Read More

South By 5…(46 of 90)

It’s been a long day, but there’s but one full day left.

I’m too tired to be sad. And too far behind in my work to worry.

At some point this evening, I’ll need to get my Media Ethics lecture finished (although it’s possible that will have to wait until tomorrow and instead I’ll put up my Thursday lecture, which isn’t mine. It’s Larry Lessig’s.) Currently I’m awaiting the last of my videos to upload so I can send off my AEJMC Tech Meme column, FIVE GOOD MINUTES, a series of vlogs with some of the smartest people I know.

And I’d like to get some sleep since I’ll be co-hosting the Accelerator tomorrow for six hours. Delirium is a bad way, I understand, to host an event.

Still, too much great stuff to do and too many smart people to track down is a high-class problem, as a former work colleague used to say. Because today was another beautiful day.

The highlight was spending a few hours with Dave Ferguson, the director of the Center for Media Design, who is in town for dual purposes. We had the chance to grab dinner before we each sprinted off in different directions. Two hours that flew by far too quickly.

Funny, of course, that we had to fly 1,200 miles to have time to get dinner. Then again, that’s the nature of the modern technology fast track. The world may be flat, but the travel still takes time.

While this isn’t the most compelling blog post ever, it’s certainly going to need to suffice.

South By 4…(45 of 90)

It’s midnight here in Austin, the end of the South by Southwest weekend.

It’s a sad day. Not because the event is over. There are still three days left. But there is a shift on Monday and Tuesday. The parties slow, the conference slows. The business begins to set in as the end draws near. At least for Interactive.

A whole year crammed into 5 full days. It’s hardly enough time really. Still, it was an amazing day in Austin.

The day started with a trip to The Spiderhouse for some work. Unfortunately, Ball State University still requires that I, you know, do my job. That means dealing with administrative tasks.

That was dispensed with quickly enough and my friend Jenny Toomey, who now works for the Ford Foundation, and I had lunch, caught up on old times and laughed quite a bit. She’s a lovely woman, one I’m proud to know. We’ve traveled long roads the past ten years, but life has really evened out for us.


Read More

South By 3…(44 of 90)

South by Southwest (SXSW) is simply seven days of heaven. The weather was gorgeous and the panel sessions really kicked off today.

It’s fair to say the conference is under way.

I started the day with a nice 3 mile run, although the hamstring is now acting up regularly. I think when I get home I may have to look for alternatives to running until it heals. For now, running is all I’ve got to keep myself going.

After that, I headed to grab Micki (@mickipedia). She’s promoting her company, Neighborgoods, at the conference so we picked up her flyers from down south. (Her business partner lives in town.)

After that, it was off to the panels. First up: Andrea Phillips talking about Alternate Reality Games.


The talk focused on how female stereotypes harm the writing process. I’m usually very skeptical of these talks (from my days as in the Women’s Study minor at Miami University), but she made a really compelling case for why writers should focus attention on female characters. When the talk becomes available, I’m posting it here.

Read More

South By 2…(43 of 90)

The first full day of South by Southwest is over, 18 hours after it began. It’s unclear if I’ll survive the gauntlet in front of me considering my inability to finish anything.

This is a price worth paying.

The day started at 9 am at the convention center (after an aborted run due to hamstring issues). I sat down to check my schedule and – as oftentimes happens here – I struck up a conversation with the folks at the table. First timers covering the event. We went through their schedule. I pointed them in the direction I found most interesting.

Then ran into my pal Tim Malbon (@malbonster for you Twitter folks), one of the founding partners for Made by Many, an amazing British company that builds the back-end content management technology, creates the media and manages the community for companies.


Along for the ride was Brian Sheridan , a journalism professor whom I met a few years back when I delivered a talk at a regional SPJ conference.

We headed over to the Cedar Door, one of the mainstays of life at South By. On the way out the door, we ran into Shane Richmond (@shanerichmond), a technology editor at The Telegraph.

Read More
Page 40 of 48« First...102030...3839404142...Last »