Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On this day in:

1854 About 50 slavery opponents met in Ripon, Wis., to call for creation of a new political group, which became the Republican Party.

1861 The Territory of Colorado was organized.

The Secret? Article in current issue of Newsweek blasts this popular new book. Quotes a psychologist: "We find about 10 percent of self-help books are rated by mental-health professionals as damaging. This is probably one of them. The problem is the propensity for self-blame when it doesn't work."

From Web-Based Collaboration Tools


Wikis are the grandparents of Web-based collaboration tools. A wiki is a dead-simple way of building Web sites; using simple text syntax on Web pages, users can, without much technical knowledge, create links from text to existing Web pages, either inside of our outside the wiki, and they can easily create new pages as they go while simultaneously linking to the new pages.

In their pure form, wikis allow anyone to edit them, but many wikis nowadays offer access control and workflow tools to keep meddling hands out, and minimize damage by the well-meaning clueless.

Zoho offers a free service to let users create wikis.
Google-owned Jotspot was a commercial wiki pioneer; they're temporarily closed to new accounts now.

Socialtext offers wiki software with a twist--you can copy the wiki to your desktop, work with it disconnected from the Internet and then merge it with the online version; Socialtext is based on TiddlyWiki, a popular single-user Wiki that stores both data and JavaScript code in a single Web page that can be stored locally on the desktop or on a server.

Socialtext is available for free for up to five users and for open source projects, and pricing starts at $95 per month for up to 20 users. The company makes its software available as open source for free.

For people who prefer to roll their own, there are a wide variety of open source wikis available--just install the software on your own server, either on the public Internet or a private intranet or extranet, and you're good to go.

Of course, Wikipedia is the big daddy of all wikis, and it's a great place to start learning about wikis, and finding links to wiki software. Wikipedia runs on MediaWiki software, which is open source, and therefore available for you to build your own wiki.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wikinomics explains how to prosper in a world where new communications technologies are democratizing the creation of value.

Wikinomics--How Mass Collaboration Change Everything hit #10 on the business best-seller list last Sunday, so I finally picked it up. Wish I'd read it when I'd first noticed it last year! If Ben Franklin was alive today, he'd be a Wiki publisher!

I've kept this blog for years, am considering shifting my energy to a wiki or two. Blogging feels too much like just raising my window, leaning out, and shouting, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Amy Oliver spoke with us yesterday at the Denver South Optimists Club. She reviewed her study which has been published by the Independence Institute showing the extreme bias in the news coverage of Amendments C & D. 50+% of the coverage was Pro, only 3% Con in the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News! “We’ve decided the best way to communicate with voters is to ignore the two major daily newspapers and focus instead on the small, local, community newspapers. People read them cover to cover, and they are more balanced in their reporting,” said Oliver. For the study see:

And you can listen to Amy’s radio show on AM1310 if you live in Northern Colorado or over the Internet at

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Since it is so likely that (today’s children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker… (what they need are) companions for the common good.

MICHEAL FLAHERTY from a talk he gave at Hillsdale College. Micheal is the co-founder and president of Walden Media, which released its first three films—Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey, James Cameron’s Ghosts of the Abyss, and Holes—to both critical and commercial success in 2003. In association with the Walt Disney Company, it also produced the Academy Award-winning film The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. This month it will release Amazing Grace, which tells the story of William Wilberforce and the movement to abolish the slave trade in Britain.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Chris Phillips will be here in Denver this Friday, 7:30 p.m. at the Tattered Cover in LoDo. this interview with him was recently published:

Q&A with Christopher Phillips
By Jeanette Leardi
The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS - Former teacher and journalist Christopher Phillips is the founder and executive director of the nonprofit Society for Philosophical Inquiry. In the 1990s, he developed the concept of the Socrates Cafe, in which people gather informally and, in his words, "ask questions - and questions about questions."

The author of three previous books, his latest, "Socrates in Love: Philosophy for a Passionate Heart," recounts his various "cafe" discussions around the world exploring five types of love: eros, or romantic love; philia, or friendship love; xenia, the love of strangers; storge, or family love; and agape, or unconditional love. He discussed his Socrates Cafe approach with Jeanette Leardi. Here are excerpts:

Q: How did you come up with the concept of the Socrates Cafe?

A: I first came across Plato's Socratic dialogues when I was an adolescent. I held my first dialogue when I was a junior high school student. In college, my political philosophy professor often took us after class to a local watering hole, where we'd continue with our discourses on matters philosophical until the wee hours. I loved that strangers often would sidle over and join in. I thought, this is what life is all about, great public discourse as a means of creating greater human connectedness.

But it wasn't till the mid-1990s, when Americans of diverse dispositions, it seemed to me, no longer engaged one another in healthy and respectful ways, that I decided to make a firm commitment to advancing this form of discourse.

Q: Why is Socrates relevant today?

A: Too many citizens of our open society have shirked their duty to actively immerse themselves in public issues and affairs. Socrates believed that it was incumbent upon each of us to be continually engaged citizens, that we must cultivate a type of constructive and healthy skepticism, questioning our leaders at every turn, lest they lead us down a blind alley or over a precipice.

By holding dialogues in the public marketplace or agora, he embodied the type of individual who invited all comers to take part, as a principal means of advancing democracy - and he did this at a time when people had become fearful of engaging in public discourse, of saying what was really on their minds. I think most of those today who take part in a Socrates Cafe-type discourse share his desire to advance the cause of democracy.

Q: What has surprised you most in the course of holding these Socrates Cafes?

A: I've facilitated and participated in thousands of Socratic dialogues, and it astonishes me that in all these years, every single dialogue - the participants pose and choose the question to be discussed - has featured a different question.

I'm also pleasantly surprised that we have so many groups. There now are more than 300, with more forming all the time, particularly since Sept. 11, 2001. Americans can be a pretty faddish bunch, and I'd thought that Socrates Cafe would be the "in" thing for a while, and then it would go by the wayside and the "next big thing" would take its place. But the momentum keeps building.

Where do you go from here? Do you have another Socrates book in mind?

I do have a few more Socrates books in mind, but I don't plan to write them anytime soon. Thanks to my Socratic inquiries, I've discovered other areas that intrigue me a great deal, such as the arena of political discourse, and I'd like to delve into them for a while.


© 2007, The Dallas Morning News.

Visit The Dallas Morning News on the World Wide Web at

Thursday, February 15, 2007

How is popular culture impacting us? That's the question asked tonight by Thomas M. Beaudoin, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor at Santa Clara University.
Dr. Beaudoin was born in Kansas City, Missouri. He attended the University of Missouri, Kansas City as an undergrad, where he earned two B.A.s in History and Secondary Education (1992). The following year, he was a William Robertson Coe Fellow in American Studies at State University of New York, Stony Brook. He completed his M.T.S. or Master of Theological Studies at Harvard Divinity School (1996) and his Ph.D. in Religion and Education from Boston College in 2001. Dr. Beaudoin joined the Santa Clara University faculty in 2004 and teaches courses on the Christian tradition and Practical Theology. He is the author of Virtual Faith and Consuming Faith, and is working on a book concerning Ignatian spirituality and pop culture.

He spoke tonight at Regis University in their Lenten lecture series.

Catholics have paid little attention to culture, especially low culture. If we are to respect the dignaty of each person, we need to learn to tell parables in language they can understand. The little attention that is paid to culture tends to look at the intention of the producer of mass communications, what they are trying to express, or the nature of the audience they are trying to reach and what the communication says about it. A much more interesting and potentially helpful approach is to look at the meaning people take from the encounter with culture, the meaning the people poach one writer calls it.

A Bishop told Beaudoin that one of the most wonderful things about mass is that people have the freedom to get what they want from the litergy. The official church has an intended meaning, litergial theologians can see the symbolism, but each person takes a different level of buy in, litergy is what we make of it. We write our own scripture, or any book, when we deeply encounter it and make it our own.

Is this just encouraging the demoniac to rant? No, as Ignatius says evil is most effective when we engage in activities we can't talk about.

It was a very engaging and thought provoking hour.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sunday, February 25th, 2007 from 12pm - 3pm. Celebrate Buffalo Bill's 160th birthday at the Buffalo Bill Grave & Museum. 987 1/2 Lookout Mountain Road Golden, CO 80401; 303-526-0744;

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show was the original inspiration for Joseph Campbell (author of the Power of Myth.)


This letter of mine appeared in the Rocky Mountain News Sunday:

Don’t move caucuses
Sunday, February 11 at 11:21 PM

Some have recently suggested the very bad idea of moving the caucus date up to February in 2008.

If anything, it should be moved back to April or even to May. The warmer weather would increase participation, whereas the February date will very likely just kill it off.

People who care about the grass roots and neighborhoods should speak out about this now.

John Wren, Denver

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Almost a hundred years ago, the philosopher Friedrich von Hügel described how we progress towards God. He wrote of an initial institutional stage, followed by a critical stage, and culminating in what he called a mystical stage. By 'mystical' he didn't mean magic or heavenly voices, but rather this: age makes us realise that we have seen it all, and brings us to know that good and evil, like the wheat and cockle of the parable, coexist not merely in countries and institutions, but in each of us. Pitch darkness and pure light are seldom the order of the day, but we learn to live with both, light emerging out of darkness. We do the best we can, and are ready to renounce the seductions of having the perfect formulation of reality, or the perfect formula for everyone's life.

In the mystical phase we still carry with us the institutional phase: we still love the sights and sounds of worship well carried out, and the sense of participating in a great body of believers. We have not left the critical phase behind, but carry it with us: we use our heads about our religion, and have no illusions about the weaknesses of Jesus' followers - after all, Peter, the first Pope, had to live with the memory of denying the Lord publicly, again and again. But when we have argued about all the great questions of human existence, especially the mystery of evil, we realise that we rely more on the gift of faith than on clear-cut reason.

From today's

Friday, February 09, 2007

We elected a strong leader last night at Hill Middle School, Republican veteran Mary Smith. Mary's very worthy opponent for the post Joe Shoemaker has pledged to help her. With the two of them working together, this should be a great, great two years between now and the 2008 caucuses for Denver.

In her first official act, Mary asked those attending last night how many wanted to reorganize around House District lines. Nearly everyone present raised their hand. The current Districts are a mistake as I've said from the beginning. The Denver GOP is the only organization I know of creating an extra layer of middle management, and Mary's fast start in strengthening our organization bodes well for her difficult assignment of bringing back to life the Grand Old Party in Denver! Here are some picture from last night's meeting (click on any picture to make it larger):

Mary Smith elected Denver GOP Chair!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

On this day in:

1878 Martin Buber was born.

1910 The Boy Scouts of America was incorporated.

1915 D.W. Griffith's silent movie epic about the Civil War, ''The Birth of a Nation,'' premiered in Los Angeles.

1922 President Warren G. Harding had a radio installed in the White House.

Buber's concept of I and Thou was formed during the growth of mass movements such as the Boy Scouts and the growth of mass media. Here is a comment on a NYT article on Positive Psychology that seems to be a practical approach to breaking through this clutter:

44.January 8th, 2007
10:53 am I teach cultural and social criticism at a small universiy. My courses in sociological issues present a particular problem because we examine difficult, often disturbing, issues such as violence, environmemental concerns, principles of governance, law and interpersonal relationships.

In these classes, I feel the responsibility to help students, most in there early to late twenties, come to terms personally with the very difficult problems facing them as young persons at a very difficult point in human history. I have attemped to do this in two ways. I begin each course with two lecture/discussions on the nature of our class as community. We consider what it is that motivates each of them and me to be in this particular class and in university.

At every opportunity, I stress that we are not simply responsible for our own learning, but for the learning of every member of the class. As a result, we are responsible to be prepared for class, contribute actively to class discussions, and to attend all classes. My argument is that the very nature of a classroom is one of community and if we refuse to engage with one another or the material, we are wasting everyone’s time and actually compromising that experience; thus cheating ourselves and one another of a very prescious opportunity.

I ask that in their writing, they approach each topic from a subjective annecdotal perspective - finding some connection between the issue and their own experience. A very large percentage of the papers are remarkably insighful and creative. Rather than simply correcting grammar and grading them, I work very hard at entering into their discussion on a positive, personal and annecdotal level. The comments I make on there papers often fuel further discussion in class or elicit email responses that still, after forty years of teaching, move and amaze me at their depth and intelligence.

My point here is not to promote my particular methodology, though I strongly believe that we need to have a very serious look at the motivations and efficacy of current pedagogical practices which stress objectivity and measurement. Within the current contexts of society, school and happiness, there are far too few opportunities for young people to formally examine their subjective experience and responses with one another and an older, supportive and informed perspective.

In this society, we remove our young people from the actual events that effect their lives either through schooling, institutions or the media. Schools, with their focus on purposeful achievement defer a productive life and happiness, making them conditional upon academic and economic success. As academics, we too often confuse form and content with the human significance of the content. Have we forgotten that direct engagement with life is a very powerful, and perhaps the essentially effective, means for achieving a purposeful and happy life?

During and long after our classes, my students often email or comment on how they feel more consciously instrumental in their own lives and in the world. They all make the point that almost nowhere in there school experience have they had the opportunity to think, express and challenge their own thoughts and to contextualize academic insights into their own lives. I believe this to be fundamental to acheiving any lasting state of personal and societal happiness.

— Posted by Richard Mueller

Comment on Happiness 101 by D.T. MAX, published January 7, 2007 in the New York Times. Can classes in positive psychology teach students not just to feel good but also to do good?

I tried to find Mueller on google, what he is doing sounds a lot like the ideal Franklin Circle.

How do I make my own Web page and use my own name for the Web address?
If you don’t want to use the free site-hosting, page-building tools and templates available on sites like Google Page Creator ( or Yahoo’s GeoCities ( because you can’t have your exact name for the address, you will need to do a little more work.

The basic process involves buying the domain name for your site, finding a company to host it (so people can get to it on the Internet) and then building the site. Many Web site design and hosting firms have package deals that do most or all of it for you.

There are many companies that sell and register Web site domain names, including GoDaddy (, Dotster (, ( On these types of sites, you can see if your name is available and register it there for a small fee. These types of sites can also usually guide you through the hosting and site-building part of the process.

Designing and building the site on your own may take some time if you are unfamiliar with the coding used on Web pages and other standard tasks like uploading them to a Web server.

Sites like and have free tutorials on the process, and most bookstores have many volumes on the subject of Web site creation.

From today's New York Times

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Mary Smith and Joe Shoemaker are running for Denver GOP Chair, we will vote next Thursday.

I've met with them each individually and they were together with us at the New Denver Republican Meetup

Joe is a real nuts & bolts grassroots organizer. Mary is very up on technology, working with the media and fundraising. I hope there is a way we can keep them both as leaders of the Denver GOP. We have Co-Captains for Districts, why not Co-Chair for the County?

Sunday, February 04, 2007

On this day in:

1789 Electors unanimously chose George Washington to be the first president of the United States.

1938 The Thornton Wilder play ''Our Town'' opened on Broadway.

If my Duke students are representative, then the U.S. is about to see a generation that is practical, anti-ideological, modest and centrist (maybe to a fault)…

While the G.O.P. was once thought of as the practical, businesslike party, now most of my students see the Republicans as the impractical, ideological party — on social and science issues as well as foreign and domestic policy.

David Brooks, talking about his impression of college student based on teaching a political science class at Duke, in his column today in the New York Times.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The United Nations report on global warming is the front page story in all the papers.

One of God's little jokes is this coming out as we are experiencing a record-setting cold snap here in Denver.

Molly Ivins obituary in the New York Times is worth reading. I was totally unaware of her living in Denver for a few years. How much of a role did that play in turning Colorado blue? Or turning Texas red?

Friday, February 02, 2007

I just sent this letter to the Denver Post in response to the David Balmer column this morning about turning the GOP around:

So picking the right top guy and the right issues will change the GOP? I don't think so.

Colorado has the opportunity for a state-wide civics lesson every two years with our wonderful neighborhood caucus system. The state is divided into 3000 neighborhoods, and on a Spring (I hope caucus killers won't move it to a winter day like today!) evening two or more meetings will be held in each neighborhood to discuss principles, issues and candidates and how our political system works.

The system was part of the Teddy Roosevelt progressive reforms, but like fire it is only a useful tool. We need newspapers that are willing to cover the very difficult story BEFORE and AFTER, and we need grassroots leaders in each neighborhood that adequate news coverage would help develop.

What would turn the GOP around is the same thing that would revitalize the grassroots of the Democrats, newspapers that decide to provide more of a reader service to average citizens.

Thomas Jefferson said that if he had to choose between having good government or having good newspapers he would not hesitate to choose the later because with it you'd get both.

Right now with rare exceptions we just don't have good newspapers. So we are left with a winner take all brand of politics with a focus on fund raising, phone bands, and phoney attack ads. In two years David Balmer's Democratic counterpart will very likely be talking about what's needed to turn his or her party around.

Newspapers bow to the financial pressure and ignore our last, best hope for returning America to what our founding fathers envisioned: our wonderful Colorado neighborhood caucus system. They need to cover this story between now and 2008. Would any newspaper wait until the day before the Rockies first game to write about the team? Why not put at least one reporter on the neighborhood caucus story now?


I doubt that the post will run my letter, since I had a letter in yesterday's paper (see below). And I doubt that the editors will take it seriously.

Editors at big newspapers like the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News extol the virtues of our representative democracy, but they don't deliver the news today that is necessary to make it work. Like a woman who has been abused, they wear a sexy night gown and sit on the far side of the couch, they whisper a sweet promise just before they leave on an airplane.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Denver Post Letters to the Editor:

Re: "Stacking caucus deck; Dems aim to lift state's stature in presidential race," Jan. 28 news story.

Some have recently suggested the very bad idea of moving Colorado's caucus date up to February in 2008. If anything, it should be moved back to April or even to May. The warmer weather would increase participation, whereas the February date will very likely just kill it off. People who care about grassroots and neighborhoods should speak out about this now.

John Wren, Denver


Rocky Mountain News

Denver voters choose wise course
February 1, 2007

Denver voters left little doubt that they're ready to bring the recording and election functions of city and county government into the 21st century.

Tuesday's special election on charter reform was a blowout, with 68 percent of voters backing Referred Charter Amendment 1A.

The amendment will abolish the Election Commission in May and place the responsibilities of clerk and recorder and election supervision under the control of a single, elected official.

Voters will decide who will first hold that newly created position during the May citywide election, or in a June runoff, if needed.

From the initial returns, it looks as if the commission performed well under the pressure of a tight schedule and the withering scrutiny of the public.

The nightmare of Nov. 7 may have sealed the commission's fate with voters.

But there had been problems aplenty over the years, including frequent staff turnover, blurred lines of accountability, and inadequate training of election workers.

City Councilwoman Rosemary Rodriguez and City Auditor Dennis Gallagher deserve credit for highlighting these concerns.

They pushed for this change in the charter more than a year ago, and continued to champion the special election as the best way to make a forward-looking, structural repair to city governance.

As candidates for the new office come forward, it's essential they receive a full vetting, so that confidence in Denver elections can be restored.