plugs


I’m deep in my sermon today, but I thought I’d share this post from Christine Kane, which asks, “Are you using the economy as an excuse?” It’s an interesting question: just when the need is greatest, what choice do we make?

The internet is a funny thing. It makes that of our imaginations real; it shrinks distances to the length of a fingertip. It makes contact wildly easy, and true intimacy easy to forget. It makes careers and whole industries, and occasionally it destroys them. It breeds a kind of pseudo-anonymity that makes it easy to forget that the whole world is watching and that that world is composed of real people with real feelings and real faces. Years ago, chat rooms and email lists pioneered new language to describe the unbearably cruel barbs that became surprisingly common: flames, flame wars, flaming. And then the beginnings of a cure: emoticons (sideways smilies made with punctuation marks), which give us a shadow of facial cues to go with our language. We can smile, wink, laugh, stick out our tongues, even put on sunglasses for a cool look. They help. We also learned, in the early days of email, to keep the emotional conversations off the computer as much as possible. When things get tough the best course is to get together as soon as you can.

For a geographically dispersed congregation like ours, scattered across at least five different regions and many more communities, technology can be an incredible grace. We can email, social-network, even video chat our way into a kind of daily intimacy formerly only available to next-door neighbors. We are working on developing our online presence: website, Facebook page, sermon podcasts, and more. If we use these tools wisely, they can build exactly the kind of strength we need in our community; if we forget that we are people talking to people, if we forget appropriate boundaries, if we use them for hard conversations instead of for scheduling the hard conversations, if we let them depersonalize us, then we are in trouble.

But we can’t let fear of a conflict keep us from connection. These tools could have been custom-made for us. The technology has matured at last, and we are in exactly the right place to reap the benefits: very much wanting to know each other better, and too busy and dispersed to get together twice a week for coffee. We literally have the technology. Let’s use it.

Last Thursday, religious leaders supporting marriage equality in Maine held four simultaneous press conferences to make public our position on the issue. We got coverage in the Bangor Daily News, the Ellsworth American, the Portland Press Herald, and a few other papers. But media is no longer confined to print and broadcast. A friend recently wrote to me on Facebook to congratulate me on being quoted on Pam’s House Blend, an “online magazine in the reality-based community”. Read it here. Thanks, Pam! With blogs and the internet, anything that really matters can become national news.

Alison Bechdel (cartoonist of long-running Dykes to Watch Out For) has a partner whose passion is composting. Here, Holly spends a few hours of her vacation overhauling the compost pile for the UU meetinghouse in Provincetown, MA.

According to the bylaws of the UUA, the Principles and Purposes must be reviewed regularly (and changed, if necessary). We have been overdue for our latest overhaul, and the Commission on Appraisal has been hard at work for the last two years or more drafting an updated version of Article II, where the Principles and Purposes reside. The new revisions are now available! Go here:

http://www25.uua.org/coa/

click through to the document after reading their introduction, and then give them your feedback. Comments here are closed to encourage you to reply directly to the COA, which can actually do something with your opinions. Enjoy!

I’m very, very excited. We now have a choice of velomobiles in the US. In addition to the allwelder from Velomobile USA in Texas, we now have a US dealer fro the Go-One3. Prices are still high-ish (base model at 10k, and then accessories for winter and assembly bring the cost to $17k) but I’m so glad velomobiles are making inroads into the US market. Unfortunately the “financing” available is a credit card at 24% APR. Yikes! We need to get banks educated so we can get auto-type loans for these.

PS: my favorite is still the Aerorider. Anyone importing them yet?

I’m a big fan of open-source software, the open source movement in general, and creative commons licensing. These are all sets of practices that move away from the mine-mine-all-mine model of intellectual property and toward a more collaborative way of being. To my way of thinking there’s a lot of good that comes out of financial motivation, but there’s also a lot of good that comes from collaboration, including most useful science. The trend toward racing-to-publish, secrecy, and sabotage in the science community really disturbs me, so I’m always glad to see something leaning in the other direction.

For a variety of reasons, my work computer has given me the chance to experiment more fully with open-source computer systems. I’m still running Windows Vista for practicality’s sake, but nearly everything else that I use regularly is open source, and it’s working brilliantly. By my calculations, that’s several thousand dollars worth of software not purchased from large corporations. I don’t mind supporting good R&D, but at some point it starts to look and feel exploitative. Further, we’re a church–we have a lot of the same needs as a corporation, but at least in this stage of our development, we don’t have the same kind of budget, and our values suggest that maybe supporting other endeavors should be our first priority.

So for the curious, here’s what’s working well for me:

    web browser (instead of Internet Explorer): Mozilla Firefox
    mail client (instead of Microsoft Outlook): Mozilla Thunderbird
    drawing program (instead of Adobe Illustrator): Inkscape
    layout program (Instead of Quark Xpress): Scribus (warning: this is ever so slightly harder to install than the others. If you want it for Windows, go to the scribus page and under “choose your platform” choose Windows. Read the whole page through, don’t forget to install Ghostscript first, and then look for the download link all the way at the bottom.)
    photo editor (instead of Photoshop): the venerable Gimp, possibly one of the oldest of these open-source projects, and one of the first to gain widespread use.
    photo viewer/slideshow maker/simple editor: Irfanview, and no, I don’t know how to pronounce it, but it’s tiny and fast and flexible.

These will serve most of the needs that most of us have, with no licensing headaches and no major dents to our purses. Of course, all projects accept donations if you are so moved.

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