Archives for April 2009

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Indra’s Net

Photo: Indra's Net. Copyright Doug Benner

Photo: Indra’s Net. Copyright Doug Benner (Click for larger image)

There’s a beautiful Hindu legend about the god Indra, who commissions an artisan to craft a vast net across the universe.

When the net is complete, at each junction Indra places a shining jewel – the facets of which reflect every other jewel in this cosmic network.

Each jewel represents a single atom, cell or life form in the Universe and all are intimately connected with one another. Any change in one jewel produces a change, however small, in all the others.

The legend also reminds me of a passage from Sinuhe the Egyptian, written by Mika Walthari in 1949:

For I, Sinuhe, am a human being. I have lived in everyone who existed before me and shall live in all who come after me. I shall live in human tears and laughter, in human sorrow and fear, in human goodness and wickedness, in justice and injustice, in weakness and strength. As a human being I shall live eternally in all mankind.

Both of these stories – a 3rd century metaphor and a post-WWII novel – resonate for me in relation to our modern, networked world.

As human beings we are all interconnected. Even a small change in one of us can ripple out through those connections to make changes in others.

Or, as Peter Block said more recently, we can “change the world, one conversation at a time”.

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My thanks to Doug Benner for his kind permission to use the beautiful photograph above.

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Wordplay with Wordle

I’ve just discovered and begun playing with Wordle.  Ok, so I’m a latecomer. :-) I’m sure most other people have already been there and done that.

One thing that really struck me about Wordle is how it can lead to new ideas or fresh perspectives. It’s a “word kaleidoscope”, in which words are tumbled and turned to produce new patterns, new synergies – and perhaps new insights.

For example, here’s a Wordle of my Music and Memories post.  I loved finding “Dad determined musical horizons – listen“.  There was whole new stream of reflection for me in that one short sentence!

Music and Memories Wordle

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Music and Memories

Music & MemoriesThis morning I heard the snatch of an old 70s song on the radio, and I was 18 again, in my first year at University – exploring new horizons, making new friends and mourning the loss of an early love.

Music holds a sure magic. It transports us through time, connects us with other people, helps to heal wounds, makes us laugh, makes us cry and feeds the soul. And there are some tunes that, when we hear them, take us back to a certain time or place with crystal-clear vividness.

My own earliest memories include my mother’s voice singing old English ballads to send me to sleep. Songs such as Oh, No John, No John, No John, No, Cockles and Mussels, and The North Wind Doth Blow.

My father was a trad jazz fan, and played the piano. Never professionally, but with a passionate love of music that stayed with him throughout his life. So my other early lullabies were tunes like Tiger Rag, St James’ Infirmary Blues and many more. And the first song I remember learning to sing as a small child was Ragtime Cowboy Joe!

[And what a delightfully quirky collection of videos I found on the web, when searching for links to all those songs. :-) ]

Indeed, music was so much a part of my dad’s life that even the stories he told of the six years he spent in the British Navy in WWII were often centred around the times he got to play the piano.

[Read more…]

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Life

A great blog post on Barriers by Jeb Dickerson made me reflect on the wonderful journey that life is if we embrace its possibilities. If we don’t become ‘fenced in’ or start “treading water up-stream while foregoing the offerings of the open ocean” as he so beautifully expressed it.

It reminded me of a poem I wrote some time ago with a similar theme, so I thought I’d unearth that poem and share it here.

River and RapidsLife can be
sometimes
a river of motion,
a remorseless current.
We’re swept past changing scenery,
through rapids that terrify
and leave us gasping,
amazed we’re still whole,
undrowned, undefeated,
surviving to move onwards.
Temptation
is a quiet backwater
where we cling to safety,
to familiarity,
and retreat from the flow
of living.
A brief respite
can be healing.
But wait too long
in the shallows,
and life will pass us by
leaving us
unchanged,
unmoved by its glory,
too frightened to plunge
into its depths
once more.

And I’ll echo Jeb’s invitation … “I’m ready to swim. You coming?”

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Category Feeds with WordPress and Feedburner

(Note: This is now an old post, as you will see from the WordPress version mentioned. I am not sure how well these steps will work with more recent WP upgrades. We also changed to FD Feedburner plugin rather than Feedsmith and no longer use individual category feeds.)

I’ve been working today on re-organising and configuring my partner Chris’s blog, Chris Chats. He needed RSS feeds set up for individual categories – and I learned that this is NOT an easy thing to do if you are using Feedburner, as we are!

I’d set up Feedburner and Feedsmith for both our blogs – which are self-hosted installations of WordPress 2.7. This was a relatively painless process that worked very well for the main blog feed and comment feed.

GRRRR Moments with the ComputerHowever, as we then found, Feedburner & Feedsmith don’t ‘play nice’ in the sandbox with WordPress if you want separate feeds for different blog categories or tags. Every feed must be individually set up in Feedburner – and at first I just couldn’t get this to work at all!

Extensive web searching, lots of WordPress tweaking, much growling and many ‘DUH!’ moments later, I finally worked it all out, and the new system is now operational.

In case the tips and steps I learned along the way are handy for any other newbie bloggers like Chris and myself, who are also using Feedburner, I thought I’d share them here.

  1. Click on “Permalinks” in the WordPress admin area and change this to one of the available settings.  The default WordPress setting doesn’t use permalinks and URLs look like something like this: http://chrischats.com/?p=34  These links won’t work to create feeds in Feedburner – each category requiring its own feeds needs its own permanent URL – ‘permalink’ in WordPress.
  2. Check out Using Permalinks on the WordPress.org website. This was the most useful resource I found to explain how the permalink structure works and how to make relevant changes. I chose the setting /%category%/%postname%/ which was recommended on several sites.
  3. If you already have one permalink setting in WordPress (as I did in my own blog), and wish to change to another without breaking all the links you have so enthusiastically shared elsewhere on the web, the Redirection plugin is a must-have. :)
  4. After establishing a suitable permalink structure for your blog, visit the category page(s) on your blog for which you need to create a feed. Copy the URL and enter it into Feedburner with /feed added to the end. For example, using the above permalink setting, Chris’s category for his Tai Chi Posts became http://chrischats.com/category/taichitips/  which I then entered into Feedburner as http://chrischats.com/category/taichitips/feed
  5. Install this Feedburner Feedsmith plugin, which includes a fix that allows configuration of individual category feeds within WordPress itself. A process that’s easy for non-techies, such as myself – particularly when compared with the various .htaccess or .php modifications I read about elsewhere. :-)
  6. Hung Out To DryGrab the category feed link that you created in Feedburner, return to the  plugin in WordPress, and enter that URL against the relevant blog category.
  7. Finally, you may like to consider either the Category Specific RSS Feed Subscription plugin or the Extended Categories widget. There may be others out there, but I found either of these worked very well to provide the list of category specific rss feeds in the widget sidebar.

Voila! All done, dusted and hung out to dry. And that’s easy for me to say … now! :-)