FW: How to fail a test with dignity

As an old-time Internet denizen, I am both familiar with and brimming with hatred of “email forwards.” That generic term which technically means “email forwarded from one person to another” has come to communicate terrible jokes, stupid pictures of cats, and political or religious diatribes that lack research and credibility. But April forwarded to me this joke email to an address I rarely use and it honestly amused me. Especially the one about the elephant.

Without further ado or accreditation (though you will probably recognize some of these):

When ZDNet Grasps For Legitimacy

I subscribe to the ZDNet newsletter, which is essentially an email I receive twice a day during the work week that has a bunch of headlines and excerpts from their various blogs. In general, I appreciate both the newsletter and their articles, and even though their discussion system sucks, they usually have some helpful or insightful blog entries.

But sometimes I wonder where they find these people. When you write for a tech site but have no connection to the real world, it becomes painfully obvious that you’re something of a hack. When reading The Allure of the Text by Christopher Dawson, I was stunned by both his shortsightedness and his ignorance.

Dawson essentially states that he has never texted before and, though he’s yelled at the kids on his lawn to go text somewhere else, he has trouble understanding why they’d bother typing into the tiny keyboards built into cell phones. Sure, maybe it’s more private than talking out loud, but it’s a pain and, besides, how can you see the screen without your bifocals on?

But then he has a revelation. Texting is similar to email! I can have multiple conversations going at once!

Dawson then laments the stupidity of kids, who are clearly just wasting time with texting when they could be using it for more glorious pursuits like collaboration.

I was stunned, because I don’t think I’ve ever read such a stupid piece of rubbish. The assumptions of this guy were mind-boggling, not just because they were derogatory but due to how ill-informed they were.

Texting is more prevalent with people younger than myself; I missed the cell-phone-boom by a couple of years. Yes, most of us had cell phones in high school, but not everyone did, and they were really intended only for emergencies. Now the devices are ubiquitous and a lot of people use them as their primary communication device. Students aren’t using texting to plan the next kegger, they’re using it to schedule tutoring sessions, get directions, and generally as a primary means of communication. It is replacing both email and instant messaging, powerfully influencing the way this generation will do business in the future.

If you want to connect with a younger person, you need to be texting. I can’t get my niece to even reply to messages within a week on MySpace, and forget about email, but she’ll get back with a text message in minutes. April tutors high school students, several of whom can only be reached through texting. And universities are beginning to realize the necessity for texting as prospective students request text communication over snail- or even e-mail.

Here’s a hint, Chris: the kids are way ahead of you, already doing ten times the communicating and collaborating you can imagine. And if you’re not careful, they’re going to overtake and replace you.

The death of the LUG

I looking into the local Linux Users Group a few months ago, going so far as to join their mailing list and contribute via email a bit. I read up on LUG meetings and the various groups around the country, and much to my chagrin, discovered that I’m about 15 years too late. It seems that the groups are not just waning, but mostly gone. The ironic bit is that the tool which grants Linux its popularity and proliferation is the same that strangles its face-to-face groups.

Once upon a time, LUGs would meet to swap disks, install new distros, ask questions and troubleshoot each others’ problems, and socialize with those who shared one’s interests. With the Internet (particularly high-speed services such as DSL and Cable), however, we no longer need such face-to-face interaction to meet those needs. Questions can be posted to listservs, forums, and chat rooms, and along with the rise of wikis, we can find what documentation we need quickly and easy. I’d like to blame Google because it’s cheap and easy, but there are myriad reasons the LUGs have died.

This topic only comes up because I was required to join some listservs last week for Banner. I’ll receive a digest (presumably daily) of the discussions occurring around a variety of topics related to Banner and the four specific modules I signed up for. The Internet’s a wonderful thing, but it certainly allows us to abstract ourselves from humanity to the n’th degree quite easily. A listserv is more interaction than reading a static webpage, but it strikes me as even less than emailing a person directly; the listserv is faceless and easy to ignore. It certainly differs from calling, or walking down the hall to talk to a person, or going to a conference to discuss these matters.

It’s not like there’s anything to do about this trend, and I don’t necessarily consider it a bad thing. Personally, I prefer the convenience and instant-response of most web applications; if I need information, I search for it and find it. My quest is more dependent [now] on my own abilities and determination and less on whether someone is willing to get with me or not. I don’t have to go anywhere to find the information I need; it’s already out there. The catch is that someone, somewhere, has to have done the work to make it available.

We are, in a sense, more interconnected than ever before; more reliant on one another providing what knowledge they have so that we might find it. Instead of a LUG of 20, we have millions to whom we can potentially go for help. Yet this connection is so abstracted that we are in danger of forgetting that humanity exists outside the walls of our offices and homes. When do we draw a line and just go to the park for a while, or spend time with our old friends?

Hopefully before we spend more time waxing philosophical about these subjects than we do engaging Life.

An Update from Lilia

Most of you probably don’t know Lilia, but she has become a good acquaintance of mine. I’d like to call her a friend, but I only see her once every couple of years and the rest of our inconsistent communication is via blogging. At any rate, she’s a great person, and I really admire her. Lilia is currently in Colombia, teaching English and music (mostly music/worship) at a Christian school there. If you haven’t heard about the recent events in Colombia, things are getting a little heated there. Lilia updated her blog this morning, and I wanted to pass it along and ask all of you who happen to be the praying types to pray for her and the people in Colombia.

It’s sort of a reminder that there are terrible things happening everywhere… it’s not like this one deserves more prayer than the others. But it is a reminder to be diligent in our awareness and our prayer for all the people in the world who are in need.

Stirrings in Colombia


For those of you who might not be up-to-date with Colombian news, I thought I might fill you in on some interesting things that happened over the weekend.

For a while now, Colombia has been accusing Ecuador of housing the FARC, a group of guerrilla marxists. They are the ones in charge of the drug trade here. On Friday night, Colombian military was able to “take out” the #2 man in the FARC… 2 miles inside of the Ecuadorian border. They made an apology for invading Ecuadorian airspace, and continued in their belief that Ecuador is housing the FARC.

Well, the events that have transpired are rather frightening. Everyone here knows that Chavez is out of his mind, and yesterday morning, he place 6,000 troops and some tanks on the Venezuelan-Colombian border, emptied the Venezuelan embassy, Ecuadorian embassy, and now the Panamanian government, known to have leftist ties with Chavez has emptied their embassy as w ell. During this raid, the Colombian government found a computer containing information of a meeting between the President of Ecuador and the FARC leaders. So, on 3 borders we have countries who don’t like us… really don’t like us.

There are talks of a possible evacuation in the next few weeks.

The Colombian and American governments know exactly where the FARC are located, and some are hoping that this would solve the Chavez/FARC problem once and for all.

Yesterday at church, we prayed for a long time for peace… something relatively new to the Colombians anyway. Just in the last 10 years, the Colombian military has been able to protect the people from the atrociousness of the FARC. Living here, you hear so many stories about the FARC and what they did and still do to people. It would be amazing if that threat no longer existed for the Colombian people.

Pray for us. Pray for the BEST for Colombia.