Net ‘Neutrality’

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Apr 20

How Do You Learn About What You Don’t Know?

I worked on a software product that helped users sift through mountains of information to find the small nuggets that they were looking for. We showed the system to a colleague early in its development. His comment was, “But how do you show the person something that they don’t know they want to find?”  That’s not exactly what he said, but the meaning is about the same.

The thought has stayed with me. How is that done? In this day and age, our search engines bring us exactly (or close to it) what we’re specifically interested in. The Web lets us find Birds of a Feather, people who share our point of view on a given topic. Cable channels are web sites cater to our exact preferences.

But what about opposing views? Do we listen to them? Do we allow their voices to be heard? Can we have a discussion, if not a meeting of hte minds, with places, sites, or people whose ideas are different from our own?

Obamacare was passed along party lines. There were a few Democrats that opposed it in the House – I don’t remember the breakdown in the Senate. But there were no Republicans that voted in favor of it. Doesn’t that seem a little bit strange? Are the Republicans a uni-mind? Can you really believe that 200-odd Individuals would be in lock step on a major decision like that?

The pundits said that the Republicans are oppositional and staying that way because they feel that’s the best way to retake Congress. I don’t know. It just seems to me to be another example of people reading the Web sites of their interest, sticking with their own Birds of a Feather and not flying over to see what the other side has to say.

I read an article in the New Yorker magazine about Justice John Paul Stephens. Justice Stephens is a Republican. His votes, however, can’t be pigeonholed. They have fallen in both liberal and conservative camps. In his 90’s,t he man still plays tennis on a regular basis and has a good strong handshake. But he’s considering retiring because he doesn’t understand, and find it difficult to work with, the conservative activist court he finds himself in. Rather than narrowly deciding cases before them, he sees them broadly interpreting them in order to overturn precedent. Are these justices only paying attention to their own Birds of a Feather?

When I was in junior high school, we were shown a film, a cartoon of sorts, that showed two factions of people. Each side had their own views on a topic. Those views became so radically different that a literal chasm formed between them. But one day, someone said, “I may be wrong, but..” and everyone gasped. On the other side, someone said, “On the other hand…” and there were sounds of shocked disbelief. But soon there were more voices expressing views that allowed for other voices, and a bridge began to form over the chasm, joining in the middle and linking the two sides together again. In celebration, they created a Declaration of Interdependence, and both sides signed it. Did these two groups discover that they didn’t know they wanted to find?

A commentator on NPR, Cokie Roberts was the daughter of congressional representatives. She said, that, when she was growing up, all the Senators’ and Congresspersons’ children tended to go to the same schools. The members of Congress would stay in Washington, D.C. when in session, so they would socialize together, Democrats and Republicans both, not separately. She said then there were chance of negotiating across the aisles because the guy on the other side had a daughter or son in the same class as yours. You knew each other off the job.

Not so today. Members jet back home on the weekends. They meet professionally within their own Birds of a Feather. But there’s not a chance for meeting socially the person on the other side of the aisles.

I’m a bleeding heart liberal and damn proud of it. Well, maybe not as blindly liberal as I was when I was younger, but definitely leaning that way. My brother is conservatively leaning in his politics. I love our political discussions. His opinions are always well-researched and thought out. He helps me gain another perspective that I might not have otherwise. He helps me to find what I didn’t know I wanted to find.

Often people say they value diversity. Do they? Are they willing to listen to opinions that they might disagree with – and give them some credence? Are they willing to consider another perspective? Will they allow that another point of view might have validity?

Do you? Can you allow yourself to objectively consider another point of view? Can you see that it’s not right or wrong, just different?


References: H.R. 3590 (111th): Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (On Passage of the Bill). H.R. 3590 (111th): Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (On Motion to Suspend the Rules and Pass).

Nuckols, Christina. Cokie Roberts’ cure for D.C. incivility. Roanoke Times. January 27,2013.

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Apr 03

How Do You Define Yourself?

This can be thought of in a couple of ways. The first is, when someone asks you what do you do, how do you answer. The second is, when you’re asked to list your accomplishments, from what aspect of your life do those accomplishments come?

Stereotypically, when you ask a man, he’ll answer based on his profession. These men define themselves by their work. The accomplishments they list are related to their job.

Stereotypically, women with children will list their children’s accomplishments. Those women define themselves through their roles as mothers.

This is why, again, in the stereotype, many men are lost when they retire and many women are lost when their children leave home. In both cases, their identities are gone and they need to ‘find’ new ones.

I wonder, though, what the stereotype is for women of my generation, those women who, through choice or necessity, had both children and careers.

Now, I guess I can say the same about the men younger than myself. Those in my generation still seem to define themselves by their work. But I’ve noticed that a lot more men in their early 40’s and younger seem to see themselves more as fathers *and* professionals than the older generations did.

I bring this up because I find it funny, not how I define myself. But how others define me.

I’m the gal with THE BOAT. I’m defined by my sailboat. Not that I have any objection to that. But it seems, outside of work, when I’m introduced to anyone, that’s part of the introduction. This has happened in several situations lately. And it has been fun, because it’s a conversation opener.

So, how do you define yourself? And how do others define you? Is it narrow? Is it accurate?

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Fast Food – Low Wages *and* High Hours

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U.S. Aids in Mexican Censorship

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