Monday, January 26, 2009

2009 NTC Scholarships

What Comes Next?

I spend a lot of time wondering about "what comes next," not so much to catch the wave, but to be inspired by what we might do in the future. Guy Kawasaki has an interview on the I Am Paddy blog about Twitter and business and connections. It's an interesting read, but as I scrolled through it a week ago, the one question that caught my eye, and mind, was this:
Paddy (interviewer): Will we still be tweeting in 5 years time?

Guy Kawasaki: I hope that I’m not. Or at least that I’m just tweeting for the sheer pleasure of it–about stuff like my cat rolling over and the line at Starbucks.
It's an innocuous comment, of course, but it got me wondering, "What comes next?" Are we bound to continue using Twitter for microblogging/marketing/discovery/etc. for all time, or will it be replaced by a more glorious service? Will Twitter become blase, and be discarded for something more personal or shiny? It's an interesting thought. 5 years ago, few of us had any idea that the net, and indeed the world, would look like it does today. Without Facebook or Skype, things would be vastly different.

So what comes after Twitter? What's the next big thing?

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Statement on Gaza

This post appeared originally on the University of Denver Interfaith Student Alliance blog:

In light of the renewed conflict in the Gaza Strip, the University of Denver Interfaith Student Alliance (DU IFA) wishes to extend our condolences to those who have suffered as a result of the recent violence. Both the people of Israel as well as the Palestinians living within Gaza have lost family members, friends, and fellow citizens. For years, many innocent lives have been lost due to the complexities of a region long fraught with violence. There are no easy answers to the questions facing the people of Israel and Palestine. A long history of violence plagues the story of this region, as well as the story of all of humankind. The pages of our collective past are riddled with accounts of conflict and hostility, hatred and fear, war and genocide. Much of this hostility is a result of our tendency to react rashly to difficulties that we all face. As humans we too often view violence as a viable solution to the problems we face living together in our ever shrinking world. We must not succumb to the all too human error of failing to see that we all share these problems, that we are all merely people trying to live together in peace, and that we are all subject to our own prejudices and misconceptions about our fellow men and women.

The members of the DU IFA believe that the wisdom of our collective faith traditions compels us to call for peace, understanding, and compassion. As an organization, our mission is to promote understanding of the full diversity of religious expression. We seek to achieve this goal by promoting dialogue among our members of different faith traditions, with the belief that understanding leads to tolerance, tolerance to acceptance, acceptance to compassion, and compassion to peace. Dialogue is not a debate; dialogue is collaborative discussion that can educate us and enlighten our attitudes. In this way we hope and pray that the parties now entrenched in violence abandon their hostility, and embark upon the seemingly difficult road to peace through dialogue and diplomacy.

The University of Denver prides itself on its diversity. The Interfaith Student Alliance welcomes this diversity in all its forms, whether it be cultural, ethnic, or (especially) religious. Many of our students are Jewish and many are Arab or Muslim. That's not the whole story, of course; DU has many different student faith communities. But whatever religious or faith tradition we call our own, wherever we hail from on the globe, and whatever our political persuasions may be, we all have at least one thing in common here: We are all University of Denver students. We are committed to leaving this school and making a difference. We are the practical idealists and the future leaders. We are all in this together.
Only by talking to one another can we achieve truly rewarding happiness in this life.

Continued violence can only lead to suffering in a region of this world that has already seen too much human hatred. In the words of one of this country's wisest citizens, the Honorable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we must remember that "Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars." The Interfaith Student Alliance invites all students, faculty, and staff to recognize that whatever might be occurring in the Middle East or indeed, anywhere, we must all continue to learn and grow together in a spirit of fellowship, academic excellence, and above all, peaceful dialogue.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Tit for Tat

OK. Punching someone just because they hit you is not good. This isn't just me speaking as a (more or less) pacifist. Preemption is an even more dangerous game, as we have found with our Mesopotamian excursion. News this past week makes me think that we earthlings still haven't figured these things out.

In the midst of renewed fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, a report was released detailing Israeli pleas in the first part of 2008 to launch strategic strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities. The US government refused to go along with the plan, thankfully. I don't think that this news piece is getting enough play. It is pretty darn important.

Tehran makes no secret of its wish to see Israel dissolved - we know this. I make no excuses for the last 29 years of Iranian history. But if we are to figure out how to make progress toward peace in the Middle East and beyond, we're going to have to look at the reasoning behind the rhetoric. Iran is calling for action against Israel, who is calling for action against Iran. It's not like Tel Aviv is just thinking about doing something drastic - their attack plans are drawn up and they have asked Washington for flyover privileges in Iraq.

I'm not going to get involved in arguing about who threatened who first, or in what context such a thing would have happened, but when I see our Congressional leadership and other elected officials repeatedly stressing Israel's right to defend itself, why is there no recognition of the abject fear than many Iranians have of Tel Aviv? Does a right of self-defense not extend to states that far east?

I'll caveat everything that I've said here by noting that my studies are in democratization and religious/political identity. I have precious little coursework or reading background in security strategy and preemption theory. I am, however, a historian at heart, and I see our policymakers giving the historical record either too much or too little weight. Let's have some more conversation about his, shall we?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Israel, Gaza, and Graffiti

As I biked up onto campus this cold January morning, I found a very interesting bit of chalk-drawing next to the library:

I also took an aerial shot for dramatic effect, as seen below. I'll update this post when they pressure-wash it off the sidewalk.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Spines and Pages and Words and Phrases, pt. 2

I went home for Christmas and set myself to organizing my old books. I brought home two boxes of older political science texts from Denver, so I managed to at least make a small dent at my apartment. Looking through my room back home, though, made me want to reconsider the entire endeavor. There was, quite literally, nowhere to walk.

My bed was clear, but only because I had to have somewhere to sleep! I spent the better part of two days going through my many boxes and bookshelves, placing things into three categories:
  1. Give to local library - I don't need it or I don't want it. Seriously, how many 1950s criticisms of Hegel does one really need?
  2. Give to Mom and Dad or other people in my life - These books can be moved immediately to new ownership.
  3. Keep - I either need them or really can't bring myself to give them up. My rare/old books will stay, as will many of what I might refer to as seminal texts in my personal/professional development.
So once that was all done, I packed up the Taurus and headed into the Franklin Grove Public Library. My mom used to be the librarian there, but that was years ago, and the place has since expanded and moved into a brand new building in the center of town. I started dumping the books in the storage room, and I think after the 20th box, the librarian might have had second thoughts! After I had finished that (first!) load, I stopped into my storage unit, still full of stuff from my old apartment in the Chicago suburbs. I ended up with another dozen or so boxes in the back of the Taurus and headed back to the library. I unloaded all of them - 35 boxes in total. My best estimate of the total number of books is somewhere between 900-1400. That's a lot. I was thanked for my donation and I drove my broken back on home.

Even by the low numbers, the amount of books that I dropped off at the library is extreme - it's more than many people will even see in a lifetime. And as much as I wanted to send them to some developing country where students truly hunger for new texts, such things are cost and time prohibitive. I was on a time crunch and I already work for a nonprofit that does its best overseas. Those aren't excuses, merely my frustration. Ideally, I would have taken off another week of work and transported the books to some organization in Chicago that could have helped.

Still, it felt really, really good to get all those old books out and into the hands of people for whom such texts might hopefully be an inspiration and educational resource.

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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Spines and Pages and Words and Phrases, pt. 1

It's been a long time coming, I can say that much. After years of wanton book collection, my "library" has swelled to such a size that I am forced to keep it in three separate locations. My apartment in Denver holds around 400 or so books - these are good ones that I have to hang on to. There's my old room back at the farm in northern Illinois - I can't rightly say how many hundreds are there. And of course the storage unit a few miles away in town holds many more boxes.

The time has come for me to cull my collection, to bring together all my texts and make some (tough, maybe) decisions about which ones will stay and which ones will go. It will be a process, I am sure, but one that will undoubtedly free me of much that I don't need.

Someone else can use these books.