2021: Year of the Love-In?

CD Cover of single "(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don't Want To Be Right" by Luther Ingram
photo credit Kevin Dooley CC-2.0

Will 2021 be the 21st century’s year of the love-in? Possibly that’s exactly what we need right now.

As we prepare to emerge from the covid-19 pandemic, wearied by years of increasingly polarized politics and staggered by the enormity of exponentially-increasing climate change, it’s hard to avoid the sober assessment that this has been mere previews of dark times to come. If we are to avert deeper disasters and violent conflict or, failing that, if we are to weather those storms, we must rapidly enact collective healing on a grand scale. I propose love-ins as one of the many interventions that we must undertake in order to achieve that radical healing.

The term love-in has been floating in the air since the 1960s. By the 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic tore through the gay community and Reagan-style conservatism dominated the mainstream, the notion of a love-in felt like a quaint and toothless affectation from the 1960s, a brief moment where young, naive, predominantly white baby boomers rode a wave of American affluence in the aftermath of WWII. This retroactive dismissal of love-ins glosses over the pain and polarized conflict that dominated american life in the 1960s, conflict that especially focused around the civil rights movement and the vietnam war. Love-ins were a radical intervention, an act of collective healing and transformative future-crafting. They arose in response to a gaping wound, invoking love, connectedness, creativity, and open imagination into a cultural space that was dominated by strife and pain. If there was any time that called for this kind of intervention, 2021 is that time.


Presentation: Why Should You Trust My Data – Code4Lib 2016

About a year ago I gave a presentation at Code4lib 2016 Why should you trust my data? Building data infrastructure that accommodates networks of trust. I forgot to add the recording and slides here on flyingzumwalt.com, so I’m adding it now. Here are the slides and the video:

My work has evolved since I gave this presentation. Most importantly, in April I published the essay The internet has been stolen from you. Take it back, nonviolently and in August I joined Protocol Labs, who are leading the work behind IPFS.  Since December I’ve also been helping the Environmental Data Governance Initiative and Data Refuge, encouraging them to see that it’s time to switch to a decentralized web — here’s an interview on zdnet and an in-depth explanation of the technical background.

On March 9th I’ll be giving a talk at Code4Lib 2017 about How the distributed web could bring a new Golden Age for Libraries. Watch the conference live stream or check here for an update with links to the slides and video of the talk.

Enlightened Business, Musings & Adventures, Uncategorized

Thomas W Malone on Collective Intelligence, with interesting findings about Gender and Intelligence

Head to edge.org  to watch this  video of Thomas W Malone speaking about Collective Intelligence.  Among his many interesting findings, he discloses a significant gem about gender and intelligence of groups.  Malone teaches at MIT Sloan School of Management.

at 9:05:

“we found that the collective intelligence of the group was significantly correlated with the percentage of women in the group… it looks like it’s a more or less linear trend where more women are better all the way up to all women.  Now, Also important to realize that the gender effect is largely statistically mediated by the social perceptiveness effect.”


Not another dichotomy: response to the idea of a liberal/conservative divide amongst devleopers

Response to Steve Yegge’s thoughts on a conservative/liberal divide amongst developers

This whole idea really irks me. All I see is a meaningless and harmful dichotomy.  A healthy collaborative culture allows everyone to have their own sensibilities and allows everyone to benefit from the variety of strengths & perspectives.  I agree that it’s crucial to understand the viewpoint & patterns of each developer who you work with, but this Conservative/Liberal divide doesn’t speak to the characteristics that will help or hamper your ability to make the most of a person’s contributions, nor does it create opportunities to improve communication.

Off the top of my head, here are some of the core patterns & principles I’ve seen at play in highly functioning groups of developers:

1. Working Code Wins.

2. Learn to Communicate.  Listen to each other.  Advocate for your views.  Soften your ideals while focusing on creating a great product.

3. Use distributed version control

4. Test your f*cking code.  Have a CI server, publicly shame people who break the build

5. Keep informal technical documentation that allows anyone on your team to set up, test & run the software locally.  When that documentation gets too complicated, spend time making your build process simpler.

6. Pass code around: Read, use, modify, and maintain your peers’ code – we all have our strengths but a team must collectively own the code base


Within that, do whatever works for you to satisfy the tasks assigned to you.  Use your perogative.  Pick up tickets that resonate with your strengths or concerns (ie. If you have strong opinions about how to make the login screen secure, take the lead on for implementing and testing it)  Ask for help & seek mentors as necessary.  If you are concerned about flaws or weaknesses in the software, speak up and/or do something about it.


Training Wheels & Neuroscience-based Meditation Tools

As a kid, I had a hard time learning to ride a bike.  Try as I might, I simply couldn’t make it work.  Eventually, after I had become resigned to never getting the knack, a neighbor named Elsa pressed me to try one more time.  After watching me try, she said “I know what’s wrong.” and removed the training wheels from the bike.  “Now try”, she said.  Skeptical but willing, I climbed onto the bike and rode — up the block, down the block, no problem.  We both hooted with delight as I took a victory lap.  All along, the training wheels had been the obstacle.  Thinking that the wheels were supposed to function like a tricycle, I had tried to keep at least one wheel on the ground at all times, which obviously prevented me from ever finding my balance.  The training tool had fundamentally distorted my understanding of what I was supposed to be learning.

I worry that the same thing will happen when people try to learn meditation using neuroscience-based tools — biofeedback devices, brainwave training tools, and especially pharmaceuticals.  In the case of bicycles and training wheels, I was the anomaly; most kids don’t encounter the confusion that I had.  By contrast, with meditation I think theres a much higher risk of misunderstanding.  First of all, the basic science of neruophysiology & meditation remains alarmingly incomplete and fraught with serious confusion, meaning that any of these tools that crop up are building on fuzzy science.  Second, mind-training skills are more complicated to acquire than riding a bike, meaning that oversimplification of the learning process is a serious risk.  Third, as a culture, we are much more adept at understanding & manipulating external, physical things like bicycles than we are at understanding or even scrutinizing our own minds.  

Next time you see me shrug my shoulders at the topic of these new neuroscience-based meditation “tools”, think of a little freckled redheaded kid frustratedly trying and failing to ride a bike with one training wheel firmly planted on the ground.

Meditation isn’t just a skill that you can acquire and keep in your pocket, nor is it a state that you can cook up and then repeatedly return to.  Meditation is an ongoing process or a way of relating with your mind, and all of the value of meditation comes from repeatedly working with your own mind through sustained effort & observation.  This doesn’t mean that we will be unable to use neuroscience to craft tools that do truly help people to learn meditation, but it does mean that we should be very skeptical of each attempt and patient along the way.


An exploration of Social Media draws the Next Generation of Arts Patrons

[Originally published in An Die Musik and on the Knight Foundation Arts Blog]

As The Schubert Club waltzes into its 130th anniversary, it could be content to function as a stuffy, conservative grand-marm to the cities’ performing arts world. I find it delightful and instructive to see the organization pass that option over. A wise friend pointed out that “An organization doesn’t last 130 years by chasing fads, but it also can’t survive by ignoring change.” In order to survive, it must remain responsive. The Schubert Club seems to live by that ethos.

The staff of The Schubert Club are bright, skillful and enthusiastic people. They have fresh perspectives and they’re led by a new Executive Director who has no shortage of insightful ideas. This organization is vivacious. It’s in this environment that The Schubert Club has launched the Theoroi project, a novel initiative aimed at harnessing social media to cultivate a community of young arts patrons.

On the evening of Susan Graham’s performance at the Ordway this January, twenty five young professionals and artists stood in the foyer speculating about where their seats would be, discussing the previous show they’d seen together a month earlier, and generally catching up. They dominated the space in front of the bar with an air of eminent confidence and comfort. Who were they? They were too confident in the space to be a random outing of friends, and too cohesive to be a spontaneous gathering of ticket holders. Some of my fellow board members stopped by saying “These must be the Theoroi.”

The Schubert Club’s Theoroi project invites twenty five people each year, all in their twenties and thirties, to serve as “ambassadors of the arts” who attend a ten-month series of performances around the Twin Cities and post online about their experiences. Susan Graham’s International Artist Series performance was the participants’ third show at the Ordway in four months. Their previous Ordway experiences were the Minnesota Opera’s Così fan Tutte in October and the Ordway’s presentation of Vox Lumiere in November. Other performances in the season include shows presented by the Guthrie, Dakota Jazz Club, St Paul Chamber Orchestra and Jungle Theater. The full season is posted on the project’s website.

The Theoroi group chats with Uri Sands and Toni Pierce Sands of TU Dance following the May 19, 2012 performance at the Cowles Center in Minneapolis.

Though we initially conceived Theoroi as a playful exploration of social media and community engagement, the project has quickly taken on a broader, richer tone. I now tell people that we’re training the next generation of arts patrons, which invariably draws the query “What do you mean by a patron?”

I’ve learned that some people think of arts patronage primarily in terms of financial support while others define patronage in terms of engagement, enthusiasm, and participation. With Theoroi, we are seeking to feed a whole culture of arts patronage, one where people of many ages attend performances, have opinions about them, and express those opinions in a public forum. I think that a thriving arts culture is one where people arrive at performances wondering what familiar faces they will see in the audience, and speculating about what the evening’s experience will bring. After the performance, they should walk out with opinions on their tongues, the confidence to express them and a curiosity about the opinions of others. If you have those things, then you have the basis for a culture of patronage–one where audiences are engaged, arts organizations are responsive, and the community feels compelled to sustain those organizations.

With each year of the project, Theoroi adds fresh voices to the mix while growing the overall network of connected, informed, vocal ambassadors. This summer we will invite twenty five new participants for the 2012-2013 season. Meanwhile the participants from 2011-2012 are enthusiastic about remaining involved. Even with fifty people, this project could have lasting positive impact. Network effects will compound those benefits with every additional year. Thirty years from now, how many Theoroi graduates will be gathering in the foyer of the Ordway? How long will they have known each other, how long will they have thought of themselves as arts patrons, and how many different ways will they be contributing to the vitality of arts in our cities?

Food, Uncategorized

Spiced Mocha

This is a delicious dark chocolate variation on the Muddy’s Cubano at Muddy Waters in Minneapolis.

Bruise some cinnamon and cardamon, add them to your ground coffee beans along with a pinch of sugar.  Brew the coffee using your preferred method – I like using a caffettiera.  Meanwhile, combine dark chocolate, ginger and milk in a small saucepan.  Heat and stir until the chocolate melts and everything is blended.  Pour the coffee into mugs, add the milk mixture to it — 50/50 is coffee/milk is a good balance.  Add sugar to taste.

BTW, for spiced hot chocolate instead of a mocha, you could put the cinnamon, cardamon and ginger all into the saucepan with the milk & chocolate then pour it through a strainer when you’re done.