Thirty-five years ago today, Star Wars premiered in theaters. I was 13 years old—a daydreamer, a stargazer, an idealist, a kid—and I swore I was just like Luke Skywalker. For me, and for millions young and old around the world, this was a transformational moment in history.
Today Steve Jobs announced his resignation as CEO of Apple. The industry has known for a long time this day would come, as I’m sure has Mr. Jobs. Still, the news makes me sad, on many levels.
I’ve long respected Steve’s vision and his ability to execute, and of course in my industry, he’s one of the pillars of technology. I’m a big fan of Apple’s products; I own Apple stock. To borrow one of their lines: This changes everything.
The video editors are hard at work as we speak. Prepare to see all manner of news and retrospectives on the life of a legend. And I’m sure we’ll see some major action on Wall Street. I look forward to reflecting on the brilliant career of an industry icon with bittersweet resignation. But for a few moments, I pause to set business issues aside and wish good things for Steve and his family. I’m sure they feel the clock ticking, and I hope they find peace and comfort in the days ahead.
I’m pretty aggravated at our government officials right now. The debt crisis looms large. With the shit piling up on our doorstep, and the stink already polluting the neighborhood, they’re arguing about what size shovels we need and whether we should invest in fertilizing gear. Are we really paying these people? A plague on both their houses.
Sometimes when I’m attending a business meeting, I look around the room, count heads, estimate travel expenses, guess at salaries, and come up with a number. What are we spending, per hour, for everyone to be there? I’m most likely to indulge this mental exercise when we are ticking away the minutes pursuing fruitless, non-productive, wasteful discussion. Often this can be attributed to one or two individuals with a fragile ego or an ax to grind, posturing for effect and usually making fools of themselves in the process. Maybe you’ve been in similar meetings. Next time, take a stab at your own number. It may surprise you.
Now think about that number in context of our elected officials. On any given day, at any given hour, We the People are spending an enormous amount of our money on our representative government. We become numb to the noise, accustomed to the rhetoric, dreading yet anticipating another election season. We tolerate—sometimes even relish—the nuttiness of it all, as we remind ourselves that this is the way it’s done, and this is the way it’s always been done. Love it or leave it, our system is still the best, right? Still, since government waste is a hot topic right now, consider that hourly number. How much of our money—yours and mine—is wasted hourly in a given day by those esteemed representatives who play politics as a game?
At a time when we really need our elected leaders to rise to the occasion and do their very best work, way too many are still posturing and grandstanding for political gain.
Long ago I learned that I disagree with many people about many important topics. I was taught to think for myself, to question authority, to keep an open mind, and to always ask why. It turns out that in this independence of thought, I am very like many of those with whom I disagree.
I dislike being told what to think, and what I should believe. I dislike labels designed to simplify or marginalize a set of complex opinions and beliefs. Although some Americans may live their lives in black and white, my own experience has been defined by shades of gray.
Still, absolutes exist for many Americans, and I have to respect that. For example, there are groups of Americans who stand unequivocally and without compromise against abortion, those who stand against capital punishment, and those with polar opposite views on those issues. But there are also those who fall in between. Those who consider mental health as a mitigating factor in capital punishment, but otherwise support it. Those who consider rape or incest as mitigating factors in abortion, but otherwise oppose it.
There are Americans who stand strongly against big government—one of those convenient, coded labels that for most of its opponents translates to federal social programs, spending programs, subsidies, and bureaucracies of most flavors. There are also Americans who believe more government is almost always better, that the free market is evil, and that government exists to protect the people from corporate interests and themselves. Neither of these groups is any more or less “American” than the other, even though they’re guided by different principles.
I happen to disagree with both groups. That is to say, I agree with both of them. I won’t get into details now (another time), but my own convictions lie in the middle, and I reject liberal and conservative labels to characterize my views. As I’ve said, shades of gray abound for me. For me, there is usually something to be learned from both sides.
The Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives is currently engaged in some flagrant and remarkable behavior. But then, so are a number of Americans who self-identify as Tea Party voters. I believe some of these Americans have become confused about our system of government.
In the current debate over the way forward in the debt standoff, much is made of the 2010 election that ushered in the self-styled young guns of the House of Representatives. Claiming a mandate from their Tea Party constituents in the election, these members cite the will of the people to bring the country to the brink of disaster in this high-stakes game of chicken on the debt ceiling. Ignoring logic, reason, and compromise, they hold firmly to an ideology that excuses their childish tantrums by suggesting they are simply doing the will of the people. This is not a partisan observation; these folks have drawn the ire of many conservatives in their own party, including Speaker John Boehner and Senator John McCain.
The House of Representatives of the 112th Congress made a big show of reading the Constitution when they first came to Washington. According to a Wall Street Journal report, this was “the latest overture to satisfy Tea Party activists who think America has strayed too far from its founding document.”
One of the beauties of the Constitution is that members of the House of Representatives are elected to 2-year terms. Representation by the States in the House is apportioned by districts. (Another topic for future discussion.) By design, the House is somewhat more subject to popular opinions, fads, movements, etc… on a limited temporal basis.
But the beautiful Constitution they’re so proud to read and quote also forms another chamber of Congress, the Senate, where its members are elected on staggered 6-year terms. The founders deliberately set up our government to guard against the undue influence of popular opinion on the actual job of governing. Indeed, this was one of the ways in which our founders insured a limited government. As a result, major change comes slowly by design.
The House of Representatives numbers 435. There are 60 members in the Tea Party caucus. In general, the caucus is “dedicated to promoting fiscal responsibility, adherence to the movement’s interpretation of the Constitution, and limited government.”
I respect all Americans. But this is not the exclusive government of the Tea Party. This is also my government, our government, designed intentionally with checks and balances to find reasoned, compromised, representative, and sometimes painful solutions to our problems. This immature and irresponsible group of legislators is flirting with disaster at our peril.
No one can ever claim “The American People” want this approach or that approach, exclusive of all others. We generally disagree about what we want, while we generally agree that there is no perfect solution. We can tolerate some level of political games from our leaders in a divided government; that's part of the process of representing an ideologically divided nation. We cannot tolerate when polarized views and special interests force an intransigence that threatens to hurt all Americans.
No one is blameless, starting with you and me. We the People get the government we deserve, and we sometimes pay the price for not being more involved in the process, not making our voices heard, not standing up to the fringes, not voting our own self-interests. Congress has been derelict. The president’s leadership has been lacking and late.
All sides bear responsibility for that steaming pile on the doorstep. All must shoulder the messy and unpleasant job of starting the cleanup. If we should fail to act, we can’t say we weren’t warned.
Mom passed away June 4th, after struggling bravely with breast cancer for 14 years.
It’s hard to believe so much time has already passed. I think about her every day. I miss her voice, her remarkably positive outlook, her childlike wit even in the most difficult times. I miss knowing that she was there, talking to her so frequently. In some ways I suppose I miss being needed the way she needed me at the end. But I have to say that I was relieved to let her go, because she was so anxious and ready to let go. The disease had really taken a heavy toll on her in the final months, and she was truly spent—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
During the hours and days following the funeral, we had a chance to reflect on the sequence of final events. We decided that were she to script everything herself in advance, Mom would have planned things fairly closely to what we were able to provide for her. That was comforting.
Looking back on the last couple of weeks of her life, I’m really glad she was able to experience the things that she’d hoped for. She had wonderful support from her hospice caregivers, who kept her comfortable despite one of the most painful forms of bone disease. She had competent, kind, and compassionate care from the nursing home staff. She was able to visit with her friends. She spent quality time with her family. She was able to talk, reflect, reminisce, and even to laugh. And when the final moments came, around 11:30pm the evening of June 4th, she wasn’t alone. My brother and I, along with her sister, were right there at her side.
Her memorial service was simple and elegant. Jim Shelburne and Albert Maggard paid their respects and provided the spiritual perspective that was so important to Mom. Both of these ministers were very special to her, and she would have appreciated the personal touch they brought to their remarks. As I had promised Mom, I also offered some brief reflections. I was both honored and humbled to speak about the way that she’ll always be a part of all of us who knew her.
A few days after the services, I posted briefly on Facebook, with a link to her obituary on the funeral home’s site. That was really about all I could manage at the time. In December, when I first blogged about Mom’s illness, I had planned to write some more about it before the end. As things happened, that plan didn’t work out.
At first I debated using the Facebook forum for an announcement like this. Did I really want friends, extended family, and close co-workers to find out this way? Was it too impersonal?
We tried to call as many people as we could, and we asked them to spread the word. And yet we knew we were surely missing people. We felt we were fairly prepared; we had spoken to Mom and made plans in advance as much as possible to honor her wishes. And yet, this was our first experience with it, and the intense list of tasks to be completed immediately following the death of a loved one can be overwhelming.
Honestly, rather than Facebook, I would have preferred about a hundred more personal conversations. But that just wasn’t practical. Word was starting to get around. People were starting to post condolences to my wall. So I wanted the rest to hear it from me, so to speak, rather than second-hand through the Facebook grapevine. Though it still seemed somewhat impersonal, it seemed less so than not saying anything, or even acknowledging the support. And in a strange way surely unique to our generation, the outpouring of encouragement and support through the online forum is very comforting.
In the time that’s passed since then, we’ve begun to go through the things she left behind. I’m really thankful that Mom left instructions for a number of things to be passed on to those who were close to her. And yet there were a whole lot of things left. Mom was pretty sentimental, and she was very organized. She kept cards and letters, journals and calendars, pictures and scrapbooks, lists of Christmas gifts and cards given and received. There were many sentimental items—mostly pictures and letters—that we just put in boxes to go through later, deferring some of the pain in the interest of getting through the process. Some of those boxes are now here in my office, waiting for some quiet time and a bottle of wine.
I learned a lot about my biological father. He was killed in Vietnam when I was two years old. Mom saved an old foot locker full of letters, pictures, poems, newspaper clippings, correspondence with the men in his unit, his personal effects, medals, letters from Defense Secretary McNamara and President Johnson. I always knew about the foot locker, and I knew of its general contents. I knew it would one day be mine. Mom opened it with me occasionally when I was a boy, and she would just scratch the surface of its contents, sharing a few things here and there. But it was painful for her; on most of these occasions she would end up crying. And that was painful for me. Growing up, I mostly avoided it, knowing its secrets would one day be revealed.
So I allowed myself some time in this process to sort through some of this discovery, but there’s still quite a bit more to go. When I break out that bottle of wine, that foot locker is also on the list. And that will be another story to tell.
I’ll close by reflecting on an idea that I’m kicking around.
I’ve learned so much through this process. I was blessed to grow in my relationships with Mom, my wife, my brother and his family, my aunt, and Mom’s friends. I was forced to learn things that I didn’t know—about myself, about the disease, about what it means to be a caregiver, about friendship, about death.
I once suggested to Mom that she should share her experiences surrounding this disease with others who were taking the same journey. As it turns out, she did. I found out about some of her work in the breast cancer community while going through her things.
Now, I’m remembering my advice and thinking I may apply it myself. Perhaps my experience—our experience—could be beneficial to others. So I’m considering writing. What forum it may take, I haven’t decided. I may consider capturing it here, among all the other topics on my long list, and use my blog as a first draft. I may assemble notes and ideas offline, and submit a full work for publishing. In any case, I think this may be a story I can tell effectively, and until a cure is found, this may be a story that will be helpful for others. This is very early stage at this point, a thought process only. So more to come.
I’m glad this entry is done. It’s taken a little while. But I really felt I couldn’t write about anything else here until I properly captured this.
Yesterday's Super Bowl was extremely entertaining. I didn't have a clear favorite, so it was great to watch objectively and enjoy the amazing talent of both teams. As always, there's no shortage of discussion today about every aspect of the game--the attendance, the fans who lost their seats, the commercials that won and lost, the half-time performances. And of course, the National Anthem, as performed by Christina Aguilera.
I'll start by saying that as a fan of many different styles of music, I admire Christina. She's unbelievably talented. She has an amazing voice and she's a kick-ass performer. When she started the second "what so proudly", I immediately groaned. Come on Christina! She recovered quickly though, and from a performance point of view, if you didn't know the words by heart you probably wouldn't even know there was something wrong. I felt for her, and I was disappointed for her that she turned in less than her best. But that's live performance, and you chalk it up to experience and move on. I knew, though, that it would be a hot topic of discussion today.
The tweets, blogs, editorials, and commentary, generally paraphrased, fall somewhere into a few different groups:
- She made a mistake. What's the big deal?
- She's a paid professional and she should be held to a higher standard.
- She (and all other performers) should just sing the song "the way it was written."
- She's unpatriotic and did a huge disservice to her country, and to the troops.
- She's a - - - - and a - - - - - and - - - - her!! Who in their right mind asked her to sing?
I won't discuss the last category of comments. Trolls. Enough said.
I find myself somewhere between the first and second group.
By definition, you only get invited to perform at this level if you have what it takes.
But if you've performed live, and for long enough, chances are you've made a mistake. If you've ever had the misfortune of making a big mistake in a big performance, it will stay with you for a long time, and it will drive you either to do better, or to quit. In this I speak from experience.
The Super Bowl stage exists on a scale that most of us can barely imagine: the absolute largest audience to which a performer can aspire. The stakes are high, and mistakes are expensive. It takes a great deal of courage and commitment to step up to that level. Solo. And a cappella. That's just wild. Can you get even close to the imagination necessary to feel empathy for someone who braves the challenge of that worldwide stage?
Christina's a professional. Any serious musician even casually acquainted with her body of work knows that she holds herself to a very high standard, and she'll have to live with her performance. I hope for her sake that she'll shake it off, take comfort in the support of her fans, dig deep, and do what artists do: turn adversity into art. Let's remember she immediately admitted her mistake, acknowledging she got caught up in the moment, and said that she hoped the meaning and intent of the song came through. This is as graceful a statement as one can expect in such circumstances.
It's a striking contradiction, though, that those who delight in live competitive games, defined both by inspiring achievements and heartbreaking failures, would be so unforgiving. She's human. She made a mistake. But she's a professional, right? She's well paid. She's used to this. She's accustomed to big moments with big crowds, right? Yeah, well, so are the athletes. You know, the ones from both teams who had critical penalties at pivotal moments? The ones who missed passes? The ones who overthrew their receivers? But somehow that's different. Those guys remain our heroes. And none of us have ever made mistakes doing the work we're paid to do, right? It's an obvious and glaring double standard.
Then there are the musical purists and traditionalists who insist the National Anthem should be sung the way it was written. Enough with the soulful renditions already, they exclaim. This is really a matter of style versus substance. An anthem moves people. Different people are moved by different music. Whitney Houston, Marvin Gaye, and Jimi Hendrix have really moved me with their performances of this song. But then, so does the Marine Band. It's because the music and the lyrics are steeped with meaning and symbolism, and that is moving. But to those who insist on singing it "the way it was written", here's a little secret: the lyrics were put to music that was already popular at the time. It was, in fact, a drinking song. Imagine for a moment some future generation of Americans singing their anthem to the tune of "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall."
But what I find most annoying is the very vocal mob that goes straight for the personal attacks: Christina just doesn't respect the gravity or the responsibility of being honored with this invitation. She doesn't respect the troops. She's not patriotic; she obviously doesn't love her country.
I really don't know the answers to these allegations. I have no personal reason to defend any performer I don't know personally. Nor should you have any personal reason to attack them. I don't know what happened in that moment, nor in the preparation leading up to it. But you probably don't either.
So here's a little quiz for all the armchair patriots out there. See if you can answer without checking online. Since you so freely question the patriotism and courage of others, have the courage to be honest with yourself.
- Do you know how many verses the National Anthem has? Has it ever changed? Do you know a single phrase from any other verse?
- Do you know who the author was, or the true story the lyrics convey?
- Do you know the connection between the National Anthem and our currency?
- Do you know--within 50 years or so--when this song became our National Anthem?
And a few extra questions related to the big game:
- In keeping with a recent tradition, early in the broadcast the NFL ran a video reciting an important historic document. What's the name of the document? What are the first 7 words? Which portion(s) of the document were omitted for time?
- Name the two quarterbacks in this year's Super Bowl.
- Name two players, other than the quarterback, from each team.
- Name two members of the Fox broadcasting team.
- Name two celebrities who attended the game.
- Name your two state senators.
I'll answer my own quiz honestly:
I knew how many verses the anthem has before I started this post. I didn't know of the historical changes associated with the Civil War. I know the last verse by heart, like a lot of people my age who went to elementary school or a traditional church and have a decent memory. I know the author's name, and I'm acquainted with the story. I knew the connection between the song and our currency. I would have missed the question on when the song became our National Anthem, even within 50 years. I can name the document at the beginning of the broadcast, and I know the first 7 words. I do know what was left out, and I commented on it during the broadcast. I could name the two quarterbacks, although not the four other players, prior to posting today. I can easily name two members of the broadcast team, as well as two celebrities who attended the game. Quite honestly I can only name one of my state senators at the moment, and it really annoys me.
Here's the thing: questioning someone else's patriotism doesn't make you more patriotic. Your knowledge, or lack thereof, of American history and civics doesn't make you more, or less, an American. But when you casually attack someone based on your criteria, you leave yourself wide open for someone to call bullshit based on their criteria.
I mentioned to Ally during the game that it really says something about what we've accomplished as a culture that there is such a huge interest and celebration wrapped around this event. The Middle East is going through a sea change; people are protesting and dying in the streets demanding basic freedoms that we all too frequently take for granted. Despite Groupon's tasteless ad, the people of Tibet really are still in trouble. Poverty and disease are very real issues for millions of people around the world, including right here at home. So it's not lost on me that it says something about our country, and the many sacrifices that got us here, that we have the privilege to occupy ourselves with such trivial yet entertaining pursuits. But it makes me sad when I see how much we argue just for the sake of argument, how we carelessly and pointlessly attack each other just for sport, and how we get so caught up in our patriotic and religious symbols and ceremonies that we forget their meaning. Why do we consume so much time and energy tearing each other down instead of building each other up? As the Black-Eyed Peas ask: Where is the Love?
Mom now enters the late stages of her 13-year battle with breast cancer. She has fought a good fight; she has kept the faith. She has every reason to be proud of the race she’s run.
I’ve long been conflicted on whether to publicly discuss this topic on my blog or on social networks. Several things held me back. I was sensitive to her privacy. I questioned my ability to adequately portray her situation. I resisted the soul-searching I thought might lead me to the right words. And I didn’t want to vent.
I’ve now come to a place where I can write about it both honestly and respectfully, and with her permission. Furthermore, I’ve realized that I need to. Unless I give this subject some of the space it deserves, I can’t pretend that any of the other topics here really matter. Besides, this experience continues to shape my views on so many things I might write about: family, society, politics, religion, health care, aging, and death, to name but a few.
So I’ll open the discussion with a summary of Mom’s story and her current situation. In future posts I’ll get into more detail, while still respecting the privacy of those involved.
Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, at the age of 51. Although the disease had spread to her lymph nodes, the doctors were hopeful and the prognosis was good. After a difficult surgery, followed by months of intensive radiation treatments and intravenous chemotherapy, she recovered and went into remission. Three years ago, almost exactly 10 years after her original diagnosis, she learned that the cancer had metastasized to her bones. This time, the diagnosis was terminal.
Still, her oncologist said she would have “years, not months.” The goal of treatments this time was to slow the progression of the disease, while affording her as much quality time as possible.
One of the ways they detect the presence of breast cancer in the body is through the CA 27-29 tumor marker. Graphed over the last three years, Mom’s 27-29 marker spikes, then falls, then spikes again with the introduction of each new treatment and the cancer’s eventual resistance to it. The hills and valleys of this 3-year graph trend up and to the right.
With each decrease in the tumor marker, as her medicine helped her to fight the cancer, she had weeks to months of feeling relatively good. Then, as the cancer cells became resistant to the medicine and began to spread again, she felt terrible. The doctors then introduced a new treatment, and the cycle repeated. Gradually throughout the process, her bones became weak and brittle, her need for narcotic pain medicines increased, and she lost a tremendous amount of weight.
Under her oncologist’s guidance, there has been a series of helpful medicines. But we’ve now come to the point that the only remaining options involve harsh forms of intravenous chemotherapy. Given her weakened state, the doctors aren’t enthusiastic about that approach. More importantly, Mom has gone through IV chemo before, and she’s choosing not to go through it again.
Our discussions now turn to hospice care.
Before I close this introduction, I’m sure Mom would want me to convey some of the richness of the journey we’re all taking.
Of course it’s been difficult for her, and for all of us. In addition to the physical symptoms, the anxiety, and the excruciating pain, she’s dealt with the emotional struggles of letting go—of people, of her mobility, of her privacy, of independence, of control. And she lost her own mother last year to Alzheimer’s disease.
However, if you talked with Mom, she would be more inclined to share the positive side of what she’s been through. She’s had time to examine her life, to make peace with all that has gone before, and to be with those she loves. She has a strong faith, a close and supportive family, and an incredible network of friends. She’s faced this battle with dignity and grace, and her attitude has been an inspiration to me personally, along with many who know her. I, too, have been grateful for the time.
She would also want me to express her profound sense of confidence and hope. Her primary oncologist has been on the cutting edge of research. There’s been so much progress made, even in the years since Mom’s original diagnosis. There are passionate and dedicated professionals leading the charge who won’t give up until a cure is found. And in her part of this race, Mom would insist that she’s merely passing the baton.
To reduce the last 13 years to such a brief summary is challenging at best. I’m aware of so much left unsaid, and so much more that I want to say. Of memories. Of lessons. Of love and laughter. Of how much I’ll truly miss her. That would take hours and hours, I know. I must make a start, and leave it at this for now.
Grandma was one of the sweetest, funniest, most caring ladies I’ve ever met. She sang to me, played with me, encouraged me, and doted on me like any grandmother would. She was also a southern Pentecostal preacher—the fire-and-brimstone kind, who never needed a microphone to make herself heard. When she took the pulpit, she transformed from my loving and gentle grandmother into a fiery, intimidating, no-nonsense messenger of the Almighty. Once she hit her stride, she would puncutate-tuh! every important word-duh! and phrase-uh!, a style I would recognize later in the speeches of Martin Luther King. Like so many of her generation, Grandma lived a difficult life full of hard work and sacrifice. In short, she had abundant wisdom and a great deal of common sense.
So we were amused when she took an interest in professional TV wrestling. Mom tried to explain to her that it was mostly staged, but Grandma was having none of it. We all realized it was a form of theater, but she was convinced it was real. As a child, I found it somehow cute and endearing, yet still puzzling.
Decades later, I’m similarly bemused by another phenomenon. Across the country, otherwise sensible people seem to buy into another kind of theater, constantly played out on network news.
To be fair, Grandma and her generation didn’t have a lot of experience with television. In those days there wasn’t much variety in programming choices, and if you had a favorite show, you arranged your schedule to watch it. You didn’t really think much about who paid for the programming or why. When wrestling aired, she was convinced she had a ringside seat to real battles, and she was riveted.
On the other hand, our generation should know better.
Television exists to attract viewers; to reach viewers, advertisers fund the TV media. How do news broadcasters attract viewers? The same way any brand attracts customers. They segment their market. They study the demographics. They differentiate their programming, advertise to convince us that their programs appeal to our values, and then work to emotionally involve us with their content. Slogans reinforce our attraction to the brand. “The Most Trusted Name in News.” “Fair and Balanced.” “The Best Political Team on Television.” “We Report, You Decide.”
The 24-hour news cycle created a fiercely competitive news environment. Since CNN launched in 1980, more than seventy 24-hour news channels sprang up worldwide. It’s no surprise that news channels work to give us the kind of content that we like, that will keep us coming back for more.
Now and then, major events push the big news networks into something resembling journalism, especially in the early coverage of such events. They disseminate the facts, dissect the sources, and try to piece together an informative story. In between these events, however, the coverage of so-called “news” deteriorates into spin, drama, talking points, and sensationalism. Heroes and villains, winners and losers, rich and poor, right and wrong, right and left, black and white.
Maybe it is interesting. And maybe it conveys information. But let’s not pretend that it’s truly informative. Like professional wrestling, some of it may be real, but much of it is theater. Entertaining, but devoid of real substance.
The fractured and fragmented nature of media now places new demands on serious people. If we want to be told we’re right, if we want to be entertained, and if we want to feed our confirmation bias, we can restrict ourselves to our favorite news channel. After all, they build their businesses telling us what we want to hear, in the way that we want to hear it. But if we want to be truly informed about what’s going on in the world, we must actively seek out the information ourselves, from various and sometimes conflicting sources. Professional journalism still exists, and the Internet provides plenty of competent amateur journalism as well. It takes some work to find it. But the news media giants showed us long ago that ratings are far more important than journalistic integrity.
The professional wrestling world is pretty harmless to its fans. But the world of news media influences our thinking, and shapes our decisions on important choices. In a free society, we take our opinions to the voting booth. Our representative governments, and the policies they enact, will always be a reflection of how well we collectively did our homework before we voted. In this crazy world, with all the issues we face, shouldn’t it be worth it to do your own homework?
Here I go again. This is dgvision 5.0, the fifth major iteration of my website. The Internet, the world, and I have gone through major changes since I started blogging in early 2000. There’s still a lot I’d like to say, so I continue to add my voice to the massive cacophony that is the social web. There are now hundreds of millions of people using the web to share news, opinions, photos, video, music… just about anything can be pumped out to cyberspace. Every day smart people are figuring out imaginative ways to do more and more with technology, and the exponential usage growth continues.
I’m very lucky to be in the technology industry, in more ways than one. First, because I thoroughly enjoy it; it’s pervasive, and its use is transforming the world. It’s an exciting time to be plugged in, and in my career I’ve already had a front-row seat to history.
Second, because it’s in high demand, and that helps pay the bills. Don’t get me wrong, tech is tricky, it’s turbulent, and I’ve been between jobs more than once. But I have confidence in the trends. Barring a massive solar catastrophe, technology will continue to accelerate, to converge, to shatter barriers, and to make itself more valuable. It’s great to be a small part of making that happen.
Web publishing has become a hobby for me over the years, along with writing, photography, and editing photos and videos. The ability to understand the web in my day job, and then enjoy it in my down time, has mostly been a good mix. At times, though, I found that I became more interested in the design aspects of my site (along with the underlying technology) than in the content. And for a blogger, that’s not cool. You’ve got to post. It got to be a hassle. Imagine having a beautiful car, but constantly having the engine torn apart in the garage, tweaking and improving. Sure—it’s faster, it’s better—but it never goes anywhere!
The new platform allows me to spend more time on publishing, and less time on design. I should give a plug to squarespace here—it’s a great setup with an excellent interface. My brother turned me on to it last month.
The reason I started blogging in the first place was that I wanted to write. I grew up reading a lot. I envied the authors who had created this magical connection with me, who had made me think, made me laugh, or moved me to tears. I wanted to do that. And when I started blogging, I have to admit that I envied the established bloggers, who were reaching a wide audience, making them think, or laugh, or cry.
In this respect, blogging is like performing music. Only a select few artists ever get to have any kind of sizable audience. I’ve come to accept that, and I’ve realized that the beauty of blogging is what marketing people like to call the long tail. Applied to blogging, the long tail suggests that although I might not have a lot of readers, the scale of the Internet lets me connect with a few. After all this time, I’m okay with that.
(Props to Carl Sagan for eloquently expressing a sense of insignificance, being so small in such a vast universe.)