Understanding the Maker Movement

YouTube: Maker Faire: “The Long Slow Make: Understanding the Maker Movement”:

“Anil Dash shares his observations and insights into the development of the Maker movement He sees it as a kind of political movement that is apolitical in nature but also radical and inclusive. This conversation with Anil and Dale Dougherty, founder of MAKE magazine and Maker Faire, touches on the social context of making, and what it means for individuals, families and communities. How will a “long, slow make” transform our society?”

Check out the post at Boing Boing: “Understanding Makers, a conversation with Anil Dash & Dale Dougherty” for more.

“Right Now”: On the present, being present, and practice (TEDXPhilly related)

1. Breathe.

2. Remind yourself: Whatever you are doing – right now – you are practicing.

3. Remind yourself: Whatever you practice – you are improving, you are building, you are growing.

4. Ask yourself: Is this what you want to improve, build or grow?

Do this a few times a day and I’m betting it will re-center you.

Things that compete for our attention are everywhere, I get distracted too easily myself, and I am doing this to retrain my focus when it drifts.

“Right Now” was the theme of last year’s TEDXPhilly. For some terrific thoughts on the theme see TEDXPhilly’s organizer (and so much more in the Philly region), Roz Duffy, and her post “here and now”.

This year’s theme is “The City”. It will be fantastic.

For more thoughts on “Right Now”, see Rahul Bijlani’s great essay, “You are not running out of time” and Umair Haque’s “The Builders’ Manifesto”.

“What was the point in trying? Who wants to be laughed at?”

Erika Meyer shares what it was like learning to play guitar, fighting to make it happen, being a woman, and being told a few times along the way she had ‘no talent’: “How I Learned To Play Guitar”:

In 2000 I was a 32-year-old single mother with a four-year-old daughter. Looking for work as a web developer, I moved to Portland, Oregon, only to find that Portland is a town where it seems EVERYONE is in a band. I would watch my (male) friends in bands and sometimes find myself in tears, because deep down, I still wanted to be part of it. I’d been out of all urban ‘scenes’ and living a pretty isolated backwoods life since 1990, so I was largely unaware of the shifts that had happened in underground rock during the previous decade.

Around my 33rd birthday, I decided to ask for my guitars again, as I had every few years or so since 1990. Amazingly, this time, my mother returned them. I don’t know why she really kept them from me, and I don’t know why she finally returned them, but I immediately started to play. Thinking, “I want my daughter to experience music hands-on”, I bought a little practice amp and picked up where I’d left off, but this time with a new attitude. I decided right away that I no longer cared about ‘talent’. I decided that ‘talent’ didn’t even matter, that what matters, in fact, is passion and commitment. I knew that if I kept on the way I’d had been, I’d go to my death with some serious regret. It was time to take this as far as *I* wanted, regardless of what anyone else thought. I had thought I was playing for my daughter, but really, I was doing it for myself.

That change from a focus on talent and skill to a focus on passion and expression was a huge and important mental switch. I was finally giving myself what no one else had quite given me: permission to play guitar on my own terms. And more than that, I gave myself permission to ‘suck’. And with permission to suck comes the ability to rock, and to overcome all the fears and insecurities that had been holding me captive.

I had begun to understand, also, by this point, a lot more about psychology behind art. I remembered when I was a kid, my friends would tell me, “I can’t draw” and I would say, “Anyone can draw!” I knew it was just a matter of practice and learning to see and to trust your instincts. So I thought, “What if it’s true of music, too? What if anyone can make music?” I also knew by then that artistically frustrated people often try to put down or discourage other artists, so I decided I wouldn’t internalize other people’s negative projections about my abilities or my right to put time and energy into music. I’d focus on what I knew in my heart to be true: that I have just as much right to rock as Mick Jagger does. Maybe even more.

Queen and Heroism

slacktivist: “The terror of knowing what this world is about”:

Nothing new here — nothing novel or innovative or unusual. But worth repeating, I think. In any case, it was something I needed to repeat after firing up the computer this morning to find that the artists and the saints had conspired against me, teaming up to remind me what this world is about.

Love dares you. Mm ba ba de.


Greater Good: Philip Zimbardo: “What Makes a Hero?”

Both good reads.

Two talks from TED to watch *today*

TEDXToronto: “Neil Pasricha: The 3 A’s of awesome”:

TEDXHouston: “Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability”:


“1000 Awesome Things”

Presentation Zen: “We don’t seek your perfection, only your authenticity”

This post brought to you by Dave Rogers whose latest post over the shooting in Tucson is a must read.

David Shenk: “Our abilities are not set in genetic stone.”

BBC: David Shenk: “Is there a genius in all of us?”:

It would be folly to suggest that anyone can literally do or become anything. But the new science tells us that it’s equally foolish to think that mediocrity is built into most of us, or that any of us can know our true limits before we’ve applied enormous resources and invested vast amounts of time.

Our abilities are not set in genetic stone. They are soft and sculptable, far into adulthood. With humility, with hope, and with extraordinary determination, greatness is something to which any kid – of any age – can aspire.

Book to read: “Man’s Search for Meaning”

Viktor E. Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” is now one of those select books that friends and family can expect me to be sending them for gifts over the next few years. For those not familiar it, it comprises of two parts: his harrowing account of survival in concentration camps during WWII, the concepts he gleamed from the experience; and a short description of “Logotherapy”, the form of therapy he pioneered that was influenced by it.

It is a short book, however, it took a long time to read because every page had something to think about and reflect upon. There are lessons for anyone, in any stage of life. Lessons for how we conduct ourselves under the best and worst of conditions, and finding the light in ourselves during the world’s darkest moments.


  • The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living.
  • …the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.
  • No man should judge unless he asks himself in absolute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not have done the same.
  • One literally became a number: dead or alive – that was unimportant; the life of a “number” was completely irrelevant. What stood behind that number mattered even less: the fate, the history, the name of the man.
  • We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number , but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – tho choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
  • Dostoevsk said once, “There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.” These words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost. It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine achievement. It is this spiritual freedom – which cannot be taken away – that makes life meaningful and purposeful.
  • The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.
  • This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love.
  • A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and he will be able to bear almost any “how”
  • Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.
  • According to logotherapy we can discover this meaning in life in three different ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.
  • By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be acutalized.
  • No one can become fully aware of the essence of another human being unless he loves him.
  • When we are no longer able to change a situation – just think of an incurable disease such as an inoperatable cancer – we are challenged to change ourselves.
  • …man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life. That is why man is ready to suffer, on the condition, to be sure, that his suffering has a meaning.
  • At any moment, man must decide, for better or worst, what will be the monument of his existence.
  • Every age has its own collective neurosis, and every age needs its own psychotherapy to cope with it.
  • Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment.
  • Man is capable of changing the world for the better if possible, and of changing himself for the better if necessary.
  • A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes – within the limits of endowment and environment – he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.
  • For the world is in a bad state, but everything will become still worst unless each of us does his best. So let us be alert – alert in a twofold sense: Since Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. And since Hiroshima we know what is at stake.


Wikipedia: “Viktor Frankl”

Wikipedia: “Logotherapy”

Wikiquote: “Man’s Search for Meaning”

Viktor Frankl Institute

Also related:

Frankl was a huge influence on Stepen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”.

What is ‘the American Dream’?

The conventional wisdom is that ‘The American Dream’ is a goal and aspiration on the part of Americans for some form of ‘conventional’ middle class life: a house, 2 kids, a car, one day retirement.

Never trust conventional wisdom.

The American Dream is about income mobility, meritocracy, and choice. The idea that, with enough hard work, with investment of time and passion, you can make a living for yourself, take care of your family, if you choose to have one, and one day retire, if you choose to. That you can climb from your station in life to a different rung, given energy and effort, again if you choose to. That if you live your life in accordance to responsibilities and goals, things will improve for you, your family and community.

The promotion of the Dream was good for business, it was good for our communities, it was good for ourselves (that is, of course, if you remembered what you were working for instead of some long sought carrot). Our environment took a massive hit, but that could have been resolved without what is taking place right now, by emphasizing and reemphasizing responsibility and consequences. As it stands, things are just getting worst on that score, Dream or no.

Friend and co-worker, Jack, once in chatting with me said that I can take a list with “American Dream” on it and check it off – Complete. I was taken aback. Really? But yesterday was a window into that.

Saturday, I got the chance to hang out with my neighbors and some friends (hi Howard!) at a block party we held. It wasn’t one of those events that were required because we didn’t know one another – just the opposite – it happened because folks on the block have gotten to know one another. There were police officers, office workers, engineers, firemen, medical technicians, masons, carpenters and more among us. Our families played games, we ate, we danced, we got along with one another and grew a few stitches closer.

Some present at the party are amidst a fight to find a way back into workforce before their dream takes a hit. I thought about them, and I wondered about the future for my daughter, my wife, myself.

Just a short while ago I was working night shift at 7-11, a few blocks from where I now work, falling behind on my bills. And earlier from that, I dealt with getting thrown from home from a mother’s boyfriend who had enough of children around him, and ended up sleeping on the train. I’ve come very, very far. But it is such a quick slope back into a struggle to survive the next day.

For an increasing number of Americans, the kind of income and class mobility I experienced is further and further out of reach, and for many who have achieved it, fears grow:

FT.com: Edward Luce: “The crisis of middle-class America”

HuffingtonPost.com: Laura Bassett: “Dwindling Retirement Savings ‘Undiscussed Explosive Bomb’ Of Recession”

Guardian: Paul Harris: “Jobless millions signal death of the American dream for many”

Metafilter: “Desperation”

Add to this how the “Great Recession” is speeding up the decay of infrastructure required to support the day to day and you find a whirlpool dragging everything into it:

NYTimes: “Governments Go to Extremes as the Downturn Wears On”

And yes, this story is an old one. It has been written before, and will be written again. But are there new elements in play?

Metafilter: “Rich get richer, poor get poorer…” (2005)

NYTimes: “Class and the American Dream” (2005)

Barbara Ehrenreich: “Nickle and Dimed” (2001)

Barlett and Steele “America: Whole Stole the Dream? The Have-Mores and Have-Lesses” (1996)

What about the children? Well it *is* about them. And it’s about you.

So far, I have been able to provide a better life for my daughter than that was provided me. Richelle and I are building a platform that she can choose where to take flight from when the day is right. She has childhood friends, a stable home with lots of structured and unstructured play time, lots of singing, dancing, crafting, family and love. Especially love. This is part of the Dream, being able to provide a better life for our children, if so choosing, and I count my lucky stars I am able to do so.

People tell me I have my own hard work to thank for this, and I did work hard, but there is much more. You can’t discount the time or place I was born to, the people I’ve met along the way who have given a helping hand or advice, and the health I’ve been blessed with. When I look around me I realize my journey, from generational poverty to the middle class, is rare, and increasingly so.

Change the rules of the game.

It looks sometimes that George Carlin was right, that it’s called ‘The American Dream‘ for a reason.

Well, one of my earliest bosses in programming, Pat, a fellow who became first a true mentor, then a friend, had pinned to his cubicle wall the following from Peter Senge:

The committed person brings an energy, passion, and excitement that cannot be generated if you are only compliant, even genuinely compliant.

The committed person doesn’t play by the rules of the game. He is responsible for the game.

If the rules of the game stand in the way of achieving the vision, he will find ways to change the rules.

A group of people truly committed to a common vision is an awesome force. They can accomplish the seemingly impossible.

Call me naive but I believe in this.

If ever there was a time to get involved, it is now. And there are ways to make difference, whether they be mentoring someone like myself, volunteering time to help those less fortunate, by becoming a more conscious consumer, or by applying skills in a way to build tools and infrastructure for the foundation that all this requires:

Code For America

Clay Johnson: “Don’t Let the Municipal Crisis Go to Waste”

Ushahidi and Swift River

Crisis Commons Wiki

Tim O’Reilly: “What is Gov 2.0? Come find out”

This was the first block party on our block. My neighbors did a terrific job organizing this and it turned out fantastic. If the Dream does require me to be asleep to see it, then yesterday never happened, surrounded by great neighbors, great friends, and great family.

A continuing inspiration

There are some who would label Sister Mary Scullion’s belief system as ‘liberal’ because it has a vision for helping people reach their fullest potential, or, because it comes from a faith-based foundation, ‘religious’ or ‘conservative’. There are some would call this the polar opposite of say, ‘libertarianism’.

Whatever. Label it what you will with your thin-slicing marketing terms. There is a mission statement, right here, for a better world. Listen to Sister Mary Scullion’s “This I Believe” essay at WHYY.org: :

I envision and work for a society in which each person is given the opportunity and resources to achieve their fullest potential and to contribute to the common good.

I also believe that our greatest power is unleashed when people come together across social boundaries to form a community united by a common vision. It is through “the power of we” as our friend and partner, Jon Bon Jovi reminds us, that we come to know the deepest truth of our humanity.

At the end of the day, this is what I truly believe: “None of us are truly home until all of us are home.”

I know, at the end of the day, my Mom and my family benefited from the efforts of those who believed in such things. I am forever thankful for their efforts and hope I can somehow contribute the same along the way.