Monthly Archives: July 2010

Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Kiva loans


Flying_Spaghetti_Monster
Touched by His Noodly Appendage

I found the profile for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Pastafarians) Kiva Lending Team while doing some related research on religious lending. Any guesses as to how many dollars in loans they’ve pushed out?

The answer: $328,000+

Yes, that’s like a third-of-a-million bucks for those of you keeping count. The team’s 1716 Pastafarians have provided over 10,000 loans thus far.

Is this proof that the Church of FSM is bankrolling various business and social ventures around the world? Yes. Keep it up, my brothers and sisters in noodles.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Atheists



UPDATE: The original post at Nonprophet Status has made it to the front page of WordPress.com. WOOHOO!

My dear friend Chris Stedman over at the Nonprophet Status blog (Respecting Religion, Staying Secular) invited me to write a guest post for him. So I did. It’s called “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Atheists“, and I’ve included a short excerpt – the real meat of the piece can be found by following the link out. Enjoy, and visit Nonprophet Status OFTEN.

I was having a chat with Ahab one night a long time ago back at Aurora University. It was snowing outside, as if that was important to the story. I asked him, “So you admit that for a god to exist it would have to be an infinite being?” His reply was a strong affirmative. “But you still don’t believe that god does, in fact, exist?” Again, he answered yes.

AHA! I knew I had him this time! I was finally going to score a point against his godless ass! “Well then, my dear friend, you have failed! In acknowledging the necessarily infinite existence of a creator god that you don’t believe in, you have turned your disbelief into the flipside, anti-infinite version of the non-affirmation of said creator god. Therefore, even by saying that god doesn’t exist, you admit by extension that god does exist as a universal MUST! It’s all about ones and zeros! I’ve got you, you fisher king rat bastard!”

Ahab blinked, took a drag from his cigarette (typical atheist maneuver), and said, “Whatever, dude.”

Continue reading “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Atheists” at Nonprophet Status.

The lies inherent in my nature films, Part 1



I like to make nature films. Anyone who subscribes to my Youtube channel understands this. I like to think of myself as a modern-day Steve the Crocodile Hantah mixed with a bit of old PBS nature shows. Then when you combine these two bits, you throw in a dash of WHAT-THE-HELL and blend thoroughly. My fans have accused me of misrepresenting the natural world. I accuse them of nothing. Watch these three videos and tell me what you think. Do I lie? I’ll be posting a companion video series tomorrow.

Here I am explaining an African elephant:

Here I am hunting Bigfoot:

Here I am explaining the history of Glenwood Canyon:

What do you think?

Living “off” the web – The Incursion Lifestyle

tim with his droid x
I fully expect this to happen.

My Droid X is in the mail. It’s a phone that happens to do internet things in a groovy way. It can also spawn multiple copies of itself that morph into common household appliances. I made up that last part. Having a smartphone (in the Droid’s case, a superphone) will change the way that I use the internet. Here’s how I think this will happen.

We’ve heard that the internet is quickly moving toward a social, semantic, app-driven culture of quick satisfaction and ex nihilo networks of limited temporal convenience that form and dissolve according to the whims of users. That’s a mouthful, but I agree with it almost entirely. Moving backwards…

Networks of Convenience

One of the big ideas in Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations is that networks arise for a common purpose and then either continue or die out. What if ATT users began a campaign to purposefully overload the phone/data lines and shut it down? Even users on other services could play along. It would be like a DDoS attack, but covered by one’s monthly fees. :) Granted, this would be counter-productive for everybody, but it would show the power of quick organizing. When the campaign ended, say at the end of a 24-hour period, folks could go back to being regular iPhone users, and ATT could go back to teh suck.

Apps Rule Everything Around Me

Apps are, by their very nature, tiny bits of useful material. Some mimic certain websites, others carry information meant to replace a given website entirely. Why go to Webster’s dictionary online when you can have the whole thing in the palm of your hand? Apps are often one-off tools; we use them then we pack them away. I check in on Foursquare, tweet something, then upload a photo to Facebook. And I’m done – the phone goes back in my pocket. Apps enter the social web and exit, making incursions, if I may, as they are needed.

What Do You Mean By That?

Our mobiles are going to help us better “teach” the web to learn what we’re about, what we need, what we like, and what we’re up to. Every time we scan a QR code, checkin, or upload a purchase through whatever that website is that does that (I can’t remember), we are building out the trajectories of meaning around us. Somewhere, a machine is crunching those data, trying to figure out the next pattern – and what to sell us on Wednesdays.

Don’t Just Stand There Talking To Me – Talk To Me!

Once I finally get my Droid in hand, I’ll be able to carry on back-channel conversations and substream chat during events (specifically Tweetups and conferences) that I otherwise would have missed. Mobiles and the apps installed on them make it possible to interact on two layers. For the rare occasions when I’ve been able to connect my iPod to a nearby wifi network, this kind of “other-place” is astoundingly fun.

Incursions

I have a wireless network at my home. I’ve found that when I’m reading books or making crafts or cooking,  having my iPod on hand (next to my phone, of course), makes it very easy for me to quickly drop in and drop out with regards to the web. It’s not simply a question of not wanting to scroll through an entire news article, which I don’t at all mind doing. It’s that I can, through apps and the way that things are now, accomplish what I want quickly.

When we’re out and about using mobiles, we don’t so much live in the internet as we make quick incursions into its various streams. If anything, mobiles have given us oodles of more freedom; I understand that this statement is old hat, but consider it in light of everything that I’ve just said. Mobiles are, by their very nature, contributing to less time spent truly “online”. It almost goes without saying that you’re less likely to follow the next 20 shiny blinky things if your mobile isn’t yet set up for that – someday, undoubtedly, it will be.

Incursions are less likely to contribute to distraction when we’re working. For those of us who have to manage multiple dialogue/creative streams at once, the ability to select when and where and how we dive into the web is freeing indeed.

*** This post is part of the “Blog Every Day Challenge“, which I have undertaken in homage to John Haydon, a captain of social media and inbound marketing for non-profits. A few months back he did the same thing. Granted, all of his posts imparted some kind of value to his readers (and he has many). I’m blogging about the same old stuff. Don’t call it “general interest”, because I think that it goes without saying that humans should generally be interested in what I’m doing. :) ***

Digital Social Contract, Part 1

digital social contract - the internet king
The Internet King

A lot of writers talk the web’s effect on how we communicate and collaborate and all kinds of other things. I’m more concerned with how the web is changing society and what it means for our future togetherness and apartness. Let’s drag up the old term “social contract” and stick the word “digital” in front of it.

I’ll paraphrase the Wikipedia definition: Social contract describes a group of theories that try to explain the ways in which people form states/countries and/or maintain social order. It is implied that people give up some rights to a government or other authority in order to receive or maintain social order through the rule of law.

The most popular social contract theorists (Locke, Hobbes, Rousseau) realized that it was better for a person to be threatened by a stationary bandit (a single king, parliament, ruling body) than by roving bandits (warlords, brigands, renegade counties). Makes sense – we sleep better if we have a short list of possible sources of death. The great thinker Max Weber gave us the notion of a “monopoly on violence” that characterizes modern states. It is more applicable, I think, to describe it as a monopoly of force or power.

People abhorred the “state of nature” before the formation of modern states. Life back then was, as Thomas Hobbes wrote, “nasty brutish, and short”, and to escape it we exchanged certain freedoms and status quos for protection and prosperity. It was simply smarter to be a part of a collective entity than to remain outside of it – you gained more by joining the party than staying outside. What does this mean for our digital lives today?

The basic idea is this: joining the internet/digital party (representing the social contract) is not absolutely necessary, but it’s certainly attractive. This goes for individuals as well as businesses. How many blog entries have you seen that list pros and cons of social media, or approaches for convincing reluctant supervisors to let you open a Twitter account for the company? One of the first big things that corporations learned on the social web was that the brand was no longer entirely in their hands. However, by joining the conversation and recognizing that a greater power is at work, those companies profit.

The same idea goes for us small people, too. Many of us work online in the knowledge economy, but even for those of us who don’t, the internet still provides ample opportunities to network, find new employment, and supplement one’s education. I’ve tried writing about this stuff before, speaking at first of what I used to call the digital contract, then discussing prescriptive analyses of social media and governance. Two other bits worth skimming are some quick thoughts about the modern nature of empire and the diffuse, scattered notion of authority at play in international politics.

So where do we see this going? Will the rush to the intertubes hearken the birth of a new digital contract, or will we return to the state of nature, where status updates fall in the forest with no one to hear?

Making lists of lives to save


We (humans) make lists.

  1. Lots of lists.
  2. We love lists.
  3. We have lists of lists.
  4. There are people who write about lists of lists; we also make lists of those people.

In this respect, the web has been both gift and curse. The immense popularity of Remember the Milk,  Stickies (in many formats), and Evernote makes it clear that we value tools for putting down on “paper” the things that we will do…someday. We make lists for just about everything:

  • Buy lemons
    lists of lists
    Hahahahahahahahahahaha
  • Set up doctor’s appointment
  • Pick up Jenny at airport 8/14
  • Write thank you letter for Jamie
  • Alec’s party
  • WORK OFF THE HOLIDAY POUNDS (still valid in July)

Oftentimes these lists are things that will better our own lives or the lives of others. Here’s an example of the latter:

And so on. Sometimes the banality of our list-driven world hits me very hard, like when I remember that I forgot (remember that I forgot?) to donate to the Red Cross. Oops, I’d better get on that! We make lists of lives to save.

It is all too easy to use lists as a convenient black hole. I once had a colleague who took copious notes, usually in the form of lists, during our department meetings. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that once an important action item made it onto one of his lists, it was effectively dead. His lists were black holes for things that he either didn’t want to do or that weren’t important.

How can we move past list abuse and get some stuff done, yo?

Photo from Flickr user Great Beyond. It’s a pretty funny picture. :)

*** This post is part of the “Blog Every Day Challenge“, which I have undertaken in homage to John Haydon, a captain of social media and inbound marketing for non-profits. A few months back he did the same thing. Granted, all of his posts imparted some kind of value to his readers (and he has many). I’m blogging about the same old stuff. Don’t call it “general interest”, because I think that it goes without saying that humans should generally be interested in what I’m doing. :) ***

7 job interview tips inspired by Twitter

job interview
So…how many followers do you have?

Mark Mann over at Denvelopers asked me to construct an interesting list. At the time, I was deep inside a job search. Inspired by that process and the ways in which I’ve seen Twitter rise to prominence, this is what I came up with.

Keep it short

Whether it’s 140 characters or 140 seconds, make sure that you’re not talking over yourself. Many people aren’t born improvisers, so know your word limit (so to speak). Folks stop listening when your conversation goes over a handful of replies (or complete thoughts).

You never know who’s listening

Phone interviews can be deceiving. You never know who’s in the room with the interviewer. Even face-to-face interviews can spread past direct listeners. A person with ten followers can have a single well-placed tweet end up retweeted by Bill Gates, Britney Spears, or @ShitMyDadSays.

Don’t lie

You know better than that. Whether it’s tweeting your 4SQ checkins or talking big about a subject in which you have knowledge a mile wide and an inch deep, be true to yourself. You will eventually be found out.

Pay attention

If you’re a business, how are you going to be competitive if you don’t know who is talking about you online? It you’re a nonprofit – same thing. Listen to what your interviewers are saying about you or your field and respond accordingly.

You are an expert of your own experience

Everybody is unique, we know this, but you are an expert of your experience. Use this to your advantage. If you were tweeting at the Oscars, you probably know a bit about what was happening there. Let people know about your real-life expertise.

job interview 2
How often do you retweet?

Quality of followers, not quantity

References count. Try to find heavyweights in your community. Don’t have Steve Jobs write you a recommendation for a job at Burger King. Make sure that your possible retweeters (references) are solid voices in your field.

Twitter, like a job interview, is not only a broadcast experience

If you do nothing but talk about yourself all the time, you’re going to pay the price. Start conversations with people, keep existing conversations going and most importantly, ask questions. Having great questions can enable you to talk your way into a comfortable place in a job interview.

I am oddly pleased with this list. What other lessons can we learn from Twitter to apply to the job search scene?

Photos by Flickr user bpsusf.

*** This post is part of the “Blog Every Day Challenge“, which I have undertaken in homage to John Haydon, a captain of social media and inbound marketing for non-profits. A few months back he did the same thing. Granted, all of his posts imparted some kind of value to his readers (and he has many). I’m blogging about the same old stuff. Don’t call it “general interest”, because I think that it goes without saying that humans should generally be interested in what I’m doing. :) ***

The Bay Area Dispatch of Doom Vol. 16 (New job edition)

NOTE: This is a modified “for public consumption” version of my world-famous (yeah right) email newsletter. A slightly less-edited version is available – just write me!

Hello friends,

Mung beans are about $1.19 in the bulk food aisle at Whole Foods. You can take these beans and sprout them in a Mason jar. A pound of beans will make BOATLOADS of fresh, tasty, nutritious sprouts. Good eatin’! And yes, I realize that the acronym for the Dispatch is now B.A.D.D. – it’s cuz I’m such a tough guy. :)

Well well well, it’s been a while since I’ve attempted to connect with y’all. When I last checked in, we were days away from launching the One Voice of Faith conference. It went well, and the Interfaith Youth Leadership Summit that Hafsa Arain and I put together was a success. After that, it was a mad dash through World Malaria Day, movie screenings, wrap-up meetings, training to become a ONE Campaign and Malaria No More Malaria Griot, and budget reconciliation. The budget work was difficult; I had to match up how much I actually embezzled with how much the Interfaith Youth Core thought I embezzled. JUST JOKING!

The Faiths Act Fellows reunited in Chicago at the end of May. It was great meeting up with all of my lovely friends to talk through the last year and to help design future iterations of the program. The Fellowship was an amazing experience. It’s going to be a few more months before we can “take the temperature” of the coalitions that we built in cities across the US, UK, and Canada, but the preliminary statistics show that we raised about $150,000 USD, which will be personally matched by Mr. Tony Blair. 10,000 people came to Faiths Act events, and we reached out to over 40,000 folks in three countries. Not bad for a first outing, if I do say so myself. Hafsa and I worked hard to connect interfaith activists to each other across the Bay Area. For only having eight months in which to work, I think that we affected the interfaith ecosystem quite positively.

I have delayed this Dispatch largely because I didn’t want to report to you all without being able to list my new employer (probably some hang-up of being a prideful rural lad), and I will do so now. On June 21st I joined the Ashoka Changemakers as a Community Mobilizer (I’m actually a non-benefited full-time consultant/contractor). I’m helping out with some current competitions to identify and empower social entrepreneurs, and I will soon take on competitions of my own. I’m going to work on developing an outreach plan for faith-based organizations, too. It’s all very exciting!

My girlfriend and I are keeping our eyes out for interesting humanitarian jobs both here and abroad. She’s back in central Colorado (pictures of the paradise of Crested Butte) and I’m still here in San Jose. I’m helping out around the office at Islamic Networks Group ; they’ve been kind enough to let me keep my desk space for the time being. There is also more interfaith organizing to be done in the Bay Area, and I’m doing what I can in my spare time. So we’ll see – the future looks bright!

So I’ll leave you all to your endeavors, which I would spell “endeavours” like my English friends if I wasn’t afraid of the jagged red line that Gmail puts underneath it. Get plenty of sleep, try drinking a few cups of green tea each day, and…shamelessly link out to a post that I wrote about my raw food experience.

I miss you all, I hope to speak with you soon, and always, keep up the good work.

P.S. Today’s poetry break is brought to you by Thomas Merton, who is awesome. His poem “A Dirge” follows my signature.

Tim Brauhn

A Dirge

BY THOMAS JAMES MERTON

Some one who hears the bugle neigh will know

How cold it is when sentries die by starlight.

But none who love to hear the hammering drum

Will look, when the betrayer

Laughs in the desert like a broken monument,

Ringing his tongue in the red bell of his head,

Gesturing like a flag.

The air that quivered after the earthquake

(When God died like a thief)

Still plays the ancient forums like pianos;

The treacherous wind, lover of the demented,

Will harp forever in the haunted temples.

What speeches do the birds make

With their beaks, to the desolate dead?

And yet we love those carsick amphitheaters,

Nor hear our Messenger come home from hell

With hands shot full of blood.

No one who loves the fleering fife will feel

The light of morning stab his flesh,

But some who hear the trumpet’s raving, in the ruined sky,

Will dread the burnished helmet of the sun,

Whose anger goes before the King.