Life is a Mystery

23 August 2009 . Comments Off on Harry Christ

Harry Christ

Well, not quite, but not far off. In the Boston Globe this week, The Book of Harry.

Eisenstadt sees Dumbledore and Harry, in different ways, as Christ figures – perhaps Harry representing the human Jesus, and Dumbledore the divine. And she posits that the New Testament depiction of elements of the Jewish community is represented by the goblins (unappealing bankers) and the Ministry of Magic (legalistic and small-minded).

But I am much more attracted to a quote near the end of the article.

“Rather than decrying as wicked certain elements of the series – as far too many Christians have done – we ought to be inviting our communities into deeper appreciation of both the similarities and the contrasts between the stories and our Christian faith,” Mary Hess, of Luther Seminary in Minnesota, writes in the journal Word & World.

Mary in the mainstream! And in an article linked to one of her favorite blogs no less. Yeah, Mary!


22 August 2009 . Comments Off on 10 apps an hour

10 apps an hour

Yesterday Apple released its letter to the FCC answering questions about the app store. Among many claims I consider disingenuous at best (really, you never discuss apps with AT&T?) Apple did let a few facts about the app approval process into the light. Let’s do some math.

There are more than 40 full-time trained reviewers, and at least two different reviewers study each application so that the review process is applied uniformly. … We receive about 8,500 new applications and updates every week, and roughly 20% of them are not approved as originally submitted. In little more than a year, we have reviewed more than 200,000 applications and updates.

First of all, if each app is reviewed by two staff that means there are effectively twice as many apps being reviewed. 8500 * 2 / 40 staff / 5 days per week / 8 hours per day = a bit more than 10 apps/hour/staff. Each staff member is trying to review an app every six minutes. Every hour. Every day. That’s got to be a bit mind-numbing, to say the least.

And we know this is only going to get worse. Apple tells us that they are now reviewing 8,500 apps per week, but in the last year they’ve only reviewed 200,000 apps. 8500 * 52 weeks = 442,000 apps, though. This means that earlier in the year there were not as many apps, this hints at quite a strong growth curve, something we know from other reports and just from watching the app store is true. As I’ve said before, Apple just cannot sustain this effort.

I thing Apple will either have to loosen up on the app store or provide other ways to get apps onto devices. Alex and I are considering writing an app to help manage DFL convention registration from iPhones. We will have to waste Apple’s time getting this app approved even though it is unlikely to ever be used by more than a dozen volunteers. This makes little sense. Apple either has to let apps fly or it will be slowly strangling the iPhone. I doubt it will strangle the phone.

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19 August 2009 . Comments Off on Be real

Be real

Yesterday I gave a talk to the wonderful staff of the CSBSJU libraries. I love the setting and the scale of this library, so I knew I’d enjoy the event. Even so, I got nervous as always about my talk. Did I have anything worthwhile to share? Would I keep people awake and thinking or put them to sleep? Was I using my toolkit in a way that enhanced the discussion or shut it down? I think the talk went well, I got some nice feedback from the staff, and maybe I’ll have to courage to do something similar again some time.

Getting up in front of a roomful of (essentially) strangers is something that many librarians confront every day. We are teachers, among other things. Today I came across a very helpful post by Carrie Donovan on In the Library with the Lead Pipe. She talks about being authentic in the classroom:

In his book, The Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer (1998) discusses identity as the evolution of all the forces that come together to form a person, including: background, culture, experience, and anything else that shapes the self. Recognizing that we bring all of these aspects of ourselves to everything we do, including our instructional activities, is key to finding your teaching identity. Librarians have pursued neutrality for a long time in their provision of organized and accessible information and knowledge, but this philosophy does not serve us well in the classroom.

We have to find (and share) ourselves in order to convey the richness of the experiences we want our students (or audience) to grasp. Not easy, but very rewarding when we pull it off!


16 August 2009 . Comments Off on Rewarding the insurance industry

Rewarding the insurance industry

Well, there we have it. Today the NYT started reporting that the White House is backing away from the “public option” in the healthcare reform making its way through congress. Non-profit “health care co-ops” are not a “public option”. We have had these sorts of plans in place already (see HealthPartners here in Minnesota, for example), but they cannot wield the clout to bring the insurance industry into line. The insurance industry has lost its way, its mission is no longer our healthcare, but rather profit. This industry stands between you and your doctor right now, working hard to prevent coverage of the care you need. The only tool in H.R. 3200 that even came close to holding this industry accountable was the public option.

With the public option gone, the main accomplishments of reform will be the requirement that individuals buy into an insurance plan and employers provide access to such a plan. Who wins? The very insurance industry that has failed this country for the last 40 years. The same industry that gives us the least effective most expensive healthcare of any industrial country in the world. This becomes a plan to increase their profits, not improve our health. This becomes a plan we should oppose.

The White House wants you to remember all the other things that this bill still does for you. Maybe. I am concerned that the insurance industry will find plenty of ways to game around these “protections”. The public option is something they would not be able to game around nearly as easily, that’s why they’ve opposed it so vigorously. We need to equal their vigor in it’s defense.

4 August 2009 . Comments Off on FFR: tinychat

FFR: tinychat

As a consultant working out of my home, I am always on the lookout for inexpensive ways to communicate and collaborate with teams. I’ve had a lot of good luck with Adobe ConnectNow for groups of two or three. Today I learned about tinychat, which seems even simpler than ConnectNow, allows more people to participate in a videochat, and still lets me share my screen (or a portion of it). Pretty nifty service for a free cloud app.

1 August 2009 . Comments Off on Insanely great or just plain insane?

Insanely great or just plain insane?

I just noticed another Apple iPhone App Store practice that seems insane: their rating system. Apple tries to rate items on a movie-like scale of 4+ (rated G), 9+ (kinda PG), 12+ (sorta PG-13), and 17+ (like R, but worse). Apps with a 17+ rating cannot be downloaded by iTunes accounts owned by anyone younger than 17. Even I, as the parent of one such young iPod owner, can’t give my child permission to download a 17+ item.

So far so good. But here comes the crazy part: Apple had rated RSS readers as 17+! Why? Presumably because they can access web content that is naughty. So now my son cannot, even if I give him permission to download an RSS reader.

What’s crazier? Apple’s own Safari browser on the iPod can access all the same content, but they have given that to my younger-than-17 son. In fact, I’d say a web browser can get to much naughtier content than most news readers.

What’s completely insane? Apple has rated some RSS readers 4+. Others 17+. Others are not rated at all. Every one of these apps does the exact same thing! Why the variety of ratings? You won’t find any explanation from Apple, they don’t explain their ratings.

Just another way Apple is hard at work killing the iPhone!

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1 August 2009 . Comments Off on FCC trying to save the iPhone

FCC trying to save the iPhone

The FCC is going to try to keep Apple from killing the iPhone. The agency has asked Apple, AT&T, and Google to cooperate in an investigation of why Apple killed Google Voice for the iPhone and pulled Google Voice related apps out of the App Store. As I’ve said before, Apple has put itself into a terrible position by trying to police applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch. By being the gatekeeper they have now put themselves into the position of having to be a fair gatekeeper and invited precisely the kind of scrutiny the FCC is now providing. I applaud the FCC to looking into this, Apple has been way too arbitrary in wielding its veto at the App Store.

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Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 /