What happened to nonviolence?

Two graphs tell some of the story.

First is how often “nonviolence” and “non-violence” in books:

Second is search trends for “nonviolence” and “non-violence” since 2004, which is when Google started keeping track of trends:

Clearly nonviolence wasn’t a thing at all until Mohandas Gandhi started bringing it up in 1918. And it became a big thing again in the 1960s, thanks to Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement he led during the Vietnam war.

Then, at the close of the 60s, it trailed off. Not that it ever went away, but it clearly retreated. (At least in books, which Google doesn’t track past 2008, which is when I guess they quit scanning them.)

But online the story is similar. There seems to be a seasonal-ish rhythm to searches for the two terms, but non-violence has been going steadily down while nonviolence has flattened since Continue reading "What happened to nonviolence?"

Props to Pop on Memorial Day

pop Thinking today, with great appreciation, about my father, Allen H. Searls, who served twice in the U.S. Army, first in the Coastal Artillery and again in the Signal Corps, during World War II. As I put it in the caption under that photo,
Pop hated not fighting in The War. So he re-enlisted even though he had already served in the Coastal Artillery. Grandma wrote on the back of this picture… “Pvt Allen H. Searls, 42103538, Camp Croft, S.C., Spartanburg, March 1, 1944.” He was promoted to corporal thanks to having served once already, and assigned to the Signal Corps in part because he scored 159 on the Army’s IQ test. He never bragged on that, by the way. (Though I will.) It was also very hard to get it out of him. Not that we needed to. We all knew how smart Continue reading "Props to Pop on Memorial Day"

Where the nickname came from

docdaveMy given name is David. Family members still call me that. Everybody else calls me Doc. Since people often ask me where that nickname came from, and since apparently I haven’t answered it anywhere I can now find online, here’s the story. Thousands of years ago, in the mid-1970s, I worked at a little radio station owned by Duke University called WDBS. (A nice history of the station survives, in instant-loading 1st generation html, here. I also give big hat tip to Bob Chapman for talking Duke into buying the station in 1971, when he was still a student there.) As signals went, WDBS was a shrub in grove of redwoods: strong in Duke’s corner of Durham, a bit weak in Chapel Hill, and barely audible in Raleigh—the three corners of North Carolina’s Research Triangle. (One of those redwoods, WRAL, was audible, their slogan bragged, “from Hatteras to Hickory,” which is about 320 Continue reading "Where the nickname came from"

Have we passed peak phone?

2017-03-27_subwayphones I should start by admitting I shot this picture with my phone. Also that on my rectangle with the rest of these people through most of this very typical subway trip yesterday. I don’t know what they were doing, though it’s not hard to guess. In my case it was spinning through emails, texting, tweeting, checking various other apps (weather, navigation, calendar) and listening to podcasts. We shape our tools and then they shape us. That’s what Marshall McLuhan’s main point was. And then we shape society, policy and the rest of civilization. People won’t stop staring at their phones, so a Dutch town put traffic lights on the ground, Quartz reports. In less than two years, most of the phones used by people in this shot will be traded in, discarded or re-purposed as iPods or whatever. And most of us will be tethered to Apple, Google and
250px-mediatetrad-svg
Continue reading "Have we passed peak phone?"

Saving High Mountain

  highmountainI’ve long thought that the most consequential thing I’ve ever done was write a newspaper editorial that helped stop development atop the highest wooded hilltop overlooking the New York metro. The hill is called High Mountain, and it is now home to the High Mountain Park Preserve in Wayne, New Jersey. That’s it above, highlighted by a rectangle on a shot I took from a passenger plane on approach to LaGuardia in 2008. The year was 1970, and I was a 23-year-old reporter for a suburban daily called Wayne Today (which may still exist). One day, while at the police station picking up copies of the previous day’s reports, I found a detailed plan to develop the top of High Mountain, and decided to pay the place a visit. So I took a fun hike through thick woods and a din of screaming cicadas (Brood X,
wayne-today-editorial
Continue reading "Saving High Mountain"

… and crime travel

I didn’t have a passport until I was approaching my 23rd birthday. But that didn’t stop me from travelling far and wide. Calcutta was a truly cosmopolitan city in those days; people from many cultures would pass through. While one generation of people, rooted in empire, left to find those roots, another, younger generation came … Continue reading "… and crime travel"

Desert warfare training in live ghost towns, seen from the sky

I’ve been fascinated for years by what comes and goes at the Fort Irwin National Training Centerfortirwin —in the Mojave Desert, amidst the dark and colorful Calico Mountains of California, situated in the forbidding nowhere that stretches between Barstow and Death Valley. Here and there, amidst the webwork of trails in the dirt left by tanks, jeeps and other combat vehicles, fake towns and other structures go up and come down. So, for example, here is Etrebat Shar, a fake town in an “artificial Afghanistan” that I shot earlier this month, on June 2: etrebat-shar1 And here is a broader view across the desert valley east of Fort Irwin itself: etrebat-shar2 Look to the right of the “town.” See that area where it looks like something got erased? Well, it did. I took the two shots above earlier this month, on June 2. Here’s a shot of the same scene
etrebat-shar3
othertown
Continue reading "Desert warfare training in live ghost towns, seen from the sky"

The Internet deserves its proper noun

doc036cThe NYTimes says the Mandarins of language are demoting the Internet to a common noun. It is to be just “internet” from now on. Reasons:

Thomas Kent, The A.P.’s standards editor, said the change mirrored the way the word was used in dictionaries, newspapers, tech publications and everyday life.

In our view, it’s become wholly generic, like ‘electricity or the ‘telephone,’ ” he said. “It was never trademarked. It’s not based on any proper noun. The best reason for capitalizing it in the past may have been that the word was new. But at one point, I’ve heard, ‘phonograph’ was capitalized.”

But we never called electricity “the Electricity.” And “the telephone” referred to a single thing of which there billions of individual examples.

What was it about “the Internet” that made us want to capitalize it in the first place? Is usage alone reason enough Continue reading "The Internet deserves its proper noun"

Oil and Water on California’s South Coast

Oil from the Coal Oil Seep Field drifts across Platform Holly, off the shore of UC Santa Barbara.

Oil from the Coal Oil Seep Field drifts across Platform Holly, off the shore of UC Santa Barbara.

Oil in the water is one of the strange graces of life on Califonia’s South Coast. What we see here is a long slick of oil in the Pacific, drifting across Platform Holly, which taps into the Elwood Oil Field, which is of a piece with the Coal Oil Point Seep Field, all a stone’s throw off Coal Oil Point, better known as UC Santa Barbara. Wikipedia (at the momentsays this:
The Coal Oil Point seep field offshore from Santa Barbara, California isa petroleum seep area of about three square kilometres, adjacent to the Ellwood Oil Field, and releases about 40 tons of methane per day and about 19 tons of reactive organic gas (ethane, propane, butane and higher hydrocarbons), about twice the Continue reading "Oil and Water on California’s South Coast"

A tale of two stars

JohnLeeHooker1997(This post is reblogged from this one, posted on June 11, 2001.) The best live performance I’ve ever attended was John Lee Hooker playing St. Joseph’s AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church in Durham, North Carolina. It was around the turn of the 80s, and in those days I went to pretty much every interesting act that came through town. I had no idea this was going to be anything unsual. When I walked in the door, John Lee was standing near the entrance looking old and beat in his orange jacket. He also smelled pretty bad, frankly, and I felt guilty for noticing it. As usual, I took a seat in the front pew (I hate sitting in the back of anything). In a few minutes John Lee came in and grumbled “Stand up!” in a gruff voice. Everybody obeyed. He then launched into a series of
240px-KeithR2
Continue reading "A tale of two stars"

Remembering Big Davy

davy1

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.
— Mahatma Gandhi

I’m not sure if Gandhi actually said that. Somebody did. My best human chance of finding who said it — or at least of gaining a learned enlargement on the lesson — would have been David Sallis. “Big Davy” didn’t know everything, but he came closer than anybody else I know, and he was a living exemplar of Gandhi’s advice. Davy’s answer would have been knowing, clever and enlarged by a joke, a wild story or both. Alas, I can’t ask him, because he died last Friday of a stroke he suffered a few days earlier. He was just 56, and is survived by his wife Margaret and daughter Rosie — mararet-and-rosie — both of whom he adored absolutely — and by countless friends and colleagues who remain shocked and saddened by
davy2
davy3
davy-robbie
davy-whiteboard
Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 2.00.49 PM
Continue reading "Remembering Big Davy"

Where the dead receive guests

trainor-biz-cardThat’s what cemeteries are, presumably: places where the dead await those who miss them, or who wish to honor and respect them. I suppose the original purpose of burial was to hold the stink down, or to recycle nutrients where the process can’t be seen. (Beats watching vultures and less grand creatures do the job.) Anyway, I found myself thinking about that when I decided to visit my Irish ancestors at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York. Long familiar to drivers as a vast forest of monuments and headstones flanking the intersection of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (I-278) and the Long Island (I-495) Expressway, it is also the largest cemetery in the country, with more than three million idle occupants. Nine of them are relatives, most of which died more than a century ago. The main one is Thomas Trainor, my great-great-grandfather, one of seven children of John or
trainor-headstone
all-the-trainor-dead
Continue reading "Where the dead receive guests"

What are the the balls on Prague’s spires called??

prague-balls-question One of the things that fascinates me about Prague are the skewers atop the spires of its many iconic buildings, each of which pierces a shiny ball. It’s a great look. I am sure there’s a reason for those things, other than the look itself. I am also sure there is a word for the ball. The skewer too. I know it’s not spire, because that labels any conical or tapered point on the roof of a building. Prague is said to be the city of a hundred, or a thousand, spires. Most of those have these balls too, and I’ve become obsessed, while I’m here, with finding out what the hell they’re called. I’m sure more than a few people out there on the lazyweb know. So tell me. Thank you.

An old lesson in how to automate journalism with war and sports metaphors

What I’ve always loved most about the Web† is how it allows each of us to publish on our own, as individuals, for the whole world. I started doing that as soon as I could get a dial-up account with a nearby ISP (the late Batnet of Palo Alto). Here is one of my first pieces, which I published in December 1995 at my self-hosted publication, Reality 2.0. I’m running it here because it does a good job of explaining how easy it is to automate journalism by framing a story in terms of war or sports. (It also tees up my next post.) So here ya go, copied from HTML 1 and morphed on pasting by WordPress into HTML 4:

MICROSOFT + NETSCAPE
WHY THE PRESS NEEDS TO SNAP OUT OF ITS WAR-COVERAGE TRANCE

By Doc Searls
December 11, 1995

Outline

Web Wars?
What are
Continue reading "An old lesson in how to automate journalism with war and sports metaphors"

The greatest western I’ve ever read

10-17-Love— is John McPhee‘s Rising From the Plains. It’s one book among five collected in Annals of the Former World, which won a Pulitzer in 1999. In all five, McPhee follows a geologist around; and all five of the geologists are interesting characters. None, however, is more interesting than J. David Love, who grew up on a hardscrabble ranch in the center of Wyoming and became one of the most accomplished geologists in the history of the field. And yet Love is still less interesting than both his parents — one an endlessly resourceful Scottish builder and re-builder of the family ranch (also possibly, McPhee suggests, a one-time member of Butch Cassidy’s gang), and the other one of the finest diarists ever to put pen to paper in a time and place that was still the Old West. I’ve read and re-read Rising From the Plains so Continue reading "The greatest western I’ve ever read"

The Giant Zero

The Giant ZeroMany years ago, Craig Burton shared the best metaphor for the Internet that I have ever heard, or seen in my head. He called it hollow sphere: a giant three-dimensional zero. He called it that because a sphere’s geometry best illustrates a system in which every end, regardless of its physical location, is functionally zero distance away from every other end. Across the nothing in the Net’s hollow sphere, every point can “see” every other point, and connect to it, as if distance were not there. And at no cost. It doesn’t matter that the Net’s base protocol, TCP/IP, is not perfect, that there are costs and latencies involved in the operation of connections and routers between end points — and that many people in the world still do not enjoy the Net’s graces. What matters is that our species’ experience of the Net, and of the world Continue reading "The Giant Zero"

We can all make TV. Now what?

meerkatLook where Meerkat andperiscopeapp Periscope point. I mean, historically. They vector toward a future where anybody anywhere can send live video out to the glowing rectangles of the world. If you’ve looked at the output of either, several things become clear about their inevitable evolutionary path:
  1. Mobile phone/data systems will get their gears stripped, in both directions. And it will get worse before it gets better.
  2. Stereo sound recording is coming. Binaural recording too. Next…
  3. 3D. Mobile devices in a generation or two will include two microphones and two cameras pointed toward the subject being broadcast. Next…
  4. VR, or virtual reality.
Since walking around like a dork holding a mobile in front of you shouldn’t be the only way to produce these videos, glasses like these are inevitable:

srlzglasses

(That’s a placeholder design in the public domain, so it has no IP drag, other than whatever submarine patents already exist, and I am Continue reading "We can all make TV. Now what?"

The best 3-point shooter you never saw

I remember the first time I saw Dwight Durante shoot. It was in the old Guilford College gym, where Catawba College was the visiting team. Guilford then was a small college basketball powerhouse, ranked among the top NAIA schools. We had three players that would be drafted by the pros (Ed Fellers, Pat Moriarty and Bob Kauffman, who went on to become an NBA all-star and coach). Our coach was future hall-of-famer Jerry Steele. Catawba was good but not quite great, and sure to lose. Not far past the half court line on Catawba’s first possession, Dwight Durante fired up a shot. It went in. For the rest of the game, Durante perforated the Guilford defense with artful moves, but mostly blew everybody’s mind with these extremely long shots. I forget the final score, but I remember that Guilford lost. All those long shots were worth just two points. The three-point rule didn’t arrive in college ball until 1986. From a 2007 story by Mike London in the Salisbury (NC) post:
Eighty amateur basketball stars gathered in New Mexico in the spring of 1968 for the Olympic Trials.  Only 12 would be chosen for the USA team that would compete for a gold medal in Mexico City.  Pete Maravich, Charlie Scott, Rick Mount and JoJo White were there.  So was the nation’s most famous little man, 5-foot-9 All-American Calvin Murphy, who could dunk two balls at a time.  But the sensation of those trials was a 5-8 junior from Catawba who scored 44 points, tied Murphy in knots and led the NAIA all-stars to three straight victories. His name was Dwight Durante, and while the selection committee wasn’t going to put a 5-8 NAIA kid on the team, Durante proved he could play with the best.  “I had a great tournament,” Durante said at Catawba’s basketball reunion.  “I almost made it.” Durante’s name is still whispered on the Catawba campus four decades after his heyday.  He was a lefty scoring machine with lightning in his legs.  He shot often, connected often. The Catawba record book remains his personal property: most career points (2,913), most points in a game (58), highest scoring average for a season (32.1).  He averaged 29.4 points per game for his career.  He scored 777 more points than Bill Bailey, Catawba’s No. 2 all-time scorer. Durante did what he did despite an unfortunate suspension that cost him nearly half his sophomore year and an injury that hobbled him for a month his senior year.  And he did it without benefit of the 3-point shot. “I figure 60 percent of his field goals would have been 3-pointers,” said Sam Moir,  Durante’s coach at Catawba.  “His teammates have told me, ‘No, Coach, it would have to be 70 percent.’  Dwight had great legs — he wore ankle braces in practice — and he could elevate and shoot accurately from 25, 26 feet.” …”He was Allen Iverson, Continue reading "The best 3-point shooter you never saw"

There goes the fire season

Got big rain today in Santa Barbara, and across all of California, or so it appears: Rain in CaliforniaRainfall records were broken. As expected, there were mudslides. One friend going to Malibu was smart to avoid the Pacific Coast Highway. The drought persists, of course. We’ll need many more storms like this to make up for the water shortage. Two things the news won’t mention, though. One is the dropped wildfire danger. We care about those here. Two of the last four wildfires took out over 300 homes. One came within a dozen homes of where I’m sitting now. The other is the greening of the hills. When California gets a good winter soaking, it turns into Ireland — at least until the fire season starts again.

Want influence? Make yourself useful.

“Influence” is hot shit these days. Linkedin 0cde531has been making a big deal about it; and it seems to be working, according to Dharmesh Shaw, a Linkedin Influencer:
First of all, there’s the sheer power and reach of the platform. When I write on my personal blog (which is reasonably popular) an article will get roughly 5,000-10,000 views. If it turns out to be popular and is widely shared on social media, that number can spike to 50,000+ views. That’s pretty good. It makes my day when it happens. But let’s compare that to how my content performs on the LinkedIn platform. I’ve posted 30 articles as an Influencer. The average number of views across those articles? 123,000! The most popular article I’ve written has received 1.2 million views and 4,200 comments (whew!) That’s heady stuff. And it’s also fun. I enjoy the opportunity to write about a broader range of topics. Obviously I write about issues that are important to startups, but I also get to write about building a company you love, andpersonal branding, and even extremely broad themes like the qualities of truly confident people.

I’m sure the same leverage also comes through publishing in Medium, Forbes, The Atlantic, HuffPo and other big Web publishers that pump lots of “content,” as they say. I have three problems with them. One is that they’re all silos. I don’t have a problem with that, by itself, because every publisher in the physical world has also been a silo, for as long as we’ve had publishers. The difference in this case is my second problem: they don’t pay me. If they did, I’d be glad to write for them. My third problem is noise. A lot of stuff published on the sites I just mentioned is damn good. But all of them are pumping as much as they can in front of as many eyeballs they can, to make the most money they can off of advertising. Even that I have no problem with (provided the advertising is of the old-fashioned brand kind, and not of the surveillance-fed kind). My problem is with the volume of it, which tends to make everything into Snow on the Water. I also have little faith that the links won’t rot. But here’s the bigger thing. I care more about being useful than being influential. That’s because being useful makes you influential anyway. So here are two ways to make yourself useful (as Mom used to say): tag eveything you can and use permissive Creative Commons licenses. Lets start with the effects of these things, for me, and work back to causes. Look at these links:   All of them feature a photo by me. I did nothing to put them there beyond tagging uploaded photos “anthropocene” and licensing them to only require photo credit (“Attribution CC BY“). This is why, whenever somebody writes about the Anthropocene Epoch (a durable topic that deeply matters), there is a high chance that one of my photos will illustrate the piece, with credit. Photos generously licensed also tend to show up in Wikipedia, by way of Wikimedia Commons, which is a palette of graphic elements that writers can raid when editing Wikipedia articles. As of today 490 of my photos are in Wikimedia Commons. Many (perhaps most) of them also show up in Wikipedia, again with credit. I did nothing to put any of those photos in either Wikimedia Commons or Wikipedia. I simply made them useful. Two more bits of advice: say interesting stuff, and link a lot. We can see the effects of both in Echovar‘s blog post, Mind the Gap: You are as You are Eaten. In it he takes someting I said, follows three links in it to three different pieces, and writes deeply about all of them, in ways I had not anticipated, which makes the whole thing even more delicious. Was I being influential there? Or simply useful? Perhaps it was both, but useful comes first. It might be the most leveraged virtue in civilization.