Monday, March 19, 2007


In many ways my mother had pretty elegant tastes; that is, she liked things well-made and that announced their use and purpose forthrightly. But she was also fond of tacky little plaques with aphorisms on them. I suppose it was her way of suggesting that it would be unwise to toss out folk wisdom too quickly.

The other day I was reminded of something on a plaque that outlined "The Rules of the House:" If it cries; love it. I went to the spot where the plaque is supposed to be to check to see if there were other good rules on it. I was surprised to find the screw it once hung from, but no plaque. I fiddled with the screw a bit and realized it didn't have enough purchase to be stable and tightening it to make it so didn't allow enough of a head to hang a picture. A longer screw is in order. Apparently the darn plaque must have fallen down once too often and I'd stashed it away. And that must have been some time ago because I don't remember anything about it.

The trouble with the sort of folk sayings my mother hung about the house all through my growing up is they seem so obviously right, it hardly seems worth the trouble of reminding about them. Clearly, my taking down that plaque and not registering a blip on my memory shows how little I've paid attention.

I haven't written a blog post in over a month, I kept thinking to myself: I'll get a round to it. Oh yes, and as you can see from the picture, a part of my inheritance is a Round Tuit. A fine Round Tuit it is, no doubt purchased with care at one of America's finest souvenir shoppes.

Before Christmas last I joined is a social networking site. What makes it unique among the many social network sites is its simple purpose to help people discover that every individual has the power to make a difference. There are so many remarkable people there, many whom I'd discovered elsewhere on the Web. isn't the easiest network to be involved in; it's a "roll up your sleeves and get to work" sort of affair.

Among the many discussion threads at ONet are discussions about open space technology and social networks. The discussions are of a very high caliber; the sort of high level discussions that give even ordinarily chatty types like me pause before jumping right in. Daniel Bassill is one of the most erudite participants in these threads. I've had his blog Tutor/Mentor Connection on my Bloglines blogroll since well before joining the ONet community. Tutor/Mentor Connection is primarily concerned with matching young people in the Chicago area with adult tutors and mentors. Their approach to this and their use of the Web so impressed me I subscribed to the blog.

Recently at ONet Daniel Bassill contacted me about a blog exchange Tutor/Mentor connection is hosting in May and June. I was flattered to be contacted, but that also set off a minor crisis of confidence about this blog. I've never figured out what purpose this blog serves, except perhaps as an outlet for my babbling-on, and thus sparing some unsuspecting victim their ear and patience with me.

But truth be told, I've harbored ambitions for the blog. I've wanted more Americans in general, and more people around Pittsburgh specifically, to consider what they can do in service to people in Africa.

My sense is that people struggle everyday to provide the requisites of our survival. As hard as it seems for all of us, those of us living in the USA and other rich areas of the world have enormous advantages. One of the consequences of this state of affairs is a complacency about the enormous challenges people face. We lull ourselves into thinking that the problems aren't ours. But all people are part of the human family, whose lines, we now know, thanks to advances in science, are much closer than we ever imagined before.

My complacency astounds me. For example, yesterday I read: "World Food Programme Forced to Cut Food Rations to Northern Uganda by Half" (also here). This is quite significant news, at least one would think so for someone like me who claims an interest in Uganda. But I didn't save the links to that story in my running notes or to and I couldn't remember off hand where I'd read about it. Did I ignore the news simply thinking there's nothing I can do about it? I'm not sure really, but I am sure that I will hear news of the consequences of it through Pittsburgh's Africa Project.

Like everyone, I'm part of many implicit and explicit networks, although I hardly feel very connected, like the connected-to-many people that kept the number of hands a letter addressed to a person in Stanley Milgram's Small World experiments to about six degrees of separation. Try your own letter chain here. The point is that the suffering from hunger in Northern Uganda is something, even as unconnected as I am, I will hear about in personal terms.

Daniel Bassill does great work and has thought and experimented with social networking for many years. With all that accumulated knowledge, the idea for the blog exchange is deceptively simple: The idea is for people to tell their stories and to share ideas about how we can build better connections. We need to build better connections, our lives and the lives of many depend upon it.

What stories do you have? Will you get around to sharing them? I'm hoping you will.

No comments: