What I'm reading: March 1, 2015

I’ve not been blogging much lately, and I don’t have much zeal to do so. I’m a little sad that Leonard Nimoy died, but mixed with that hope that I too might live long and prosper. I could walk though the pros and cons of UUA.org, but I don’t know what that would prove, other than it’s not fully rolled out. I could be angry about the destruction of genuine and reproduction antiquities in Mosul, but that’s a feeling shared by most sensible people. I’m just not keen to state the generally obvious.

So, I’ll lean on some interesting things I’ve read lately. I use Newsblur to manage my feeds. I subcribe to dozens of feeds, and subscribe to Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and Pew Research Center Religion & Public Life “Religion in the News” for general religion news.

But I’m interested in other matters,and have been reading about other things. Such as applying the most appropriate level of technology to a given situation. Whether that’s delivering natural gas, improving prosthetic knees or re-capturing ancient lessons about heating homes (and churches).

I’ve also read this challenge to white homogeneity among Anabaptists and also  this informative graphic about what image file standard to use and when. (And you don’t need to use Photoshop.)

Preserving Unitarian Universalism

So, I’m waiting for Lucky Dog to come on this morning, with CBS This Morning (which comes on just before) on in the background so I don’t miss it. There was a segment about digitizing The Spirit of St. Louis and other Smithsonian-held artifacts through 3-D scanning. Even President Obama got the treatment, like President Lincoln (who had to suffer plaster) before him.

I thought it might be bitterly funny to put Unitarian Universalism under the lights and cameras to preserve it digitally against loss, so that, one day the files might be pumped into a 3-D printer and the whole thing could be recreated. Well, perhaps only as a plastic model. A scan will preserve the shape and appearance, but not its workings and certainly not its life.

We attempt to preserve though recording that which is valuable and may or shall be lost. A shadow is better than nothing. I started putting Universalist Christian documents online, now almost two decades ago, because I feared the tradition would be lost before even the basics could be laid down. The documents are easier to get now, but the traditions still seems highly endangered and unvalued.

And in my almost thirty year association with Unitarian Universalism, I’ve noticed that what happens to one subset will apply to others in turn. Ask any classic Humanist if that tradition is well-respected and thriving. Throwing up your hands and saying “change happens” only says to me that you’ve not felt the bite yet. And there’s no guarantee that the whole fellowship of Unitarian Universalists worth wither away in a generation or two. We can take pictures, or find another way to preserve Unitarian Universalism.

Appreciating the City Weekend

A pause from my thread on re-orienting Unitarian Universalist approaches to social engagement to note Esperanto, and two things it can offer us.

Today is Zamenhof Day, the birthday of L. L. Zamenhof, Esperanto’s founder. (As featured on the UUA’s Wall of December Holidays.)

The first is a cautionary tale. I like Esperanto, the world’s most commonly used constructed language, in spite of the fina venko movement among Esperantists and not because of it. The fina venko (“final victory”) would be when Esperanto would be used as a second, auxiliary language to communicate across cultures and around the world, and with it improve mutual understanding and reduce the risk of warfare. I enjoy Esperanto for the game quality of learning it and the odd culture that’s grown up around it. (Even the Wall Street Journal picked up on conventional Esperantist wanderlust.) I’d like the fina venko to take place, but I have no faith it will happen. So I won’t invest effort to bring about world understanding that way. There may be some parallels to how people approach churches, but I’ll let you work that out yourself.

The second thing is a newish style of meeting found among North American Esperantists. Esperantists in Europe or Japan have an endless number (the link is to a calendar; in Esperanto, klare, but you can get the gist) of conferences and meetings often somewhat entertaining and often at shockingly little cost. And little wonder for a language community where ali?ilo (“registration blank”)  is a basic vocabulary word.

They’re low-cost because they’re designed that way. If perhaps more than we’re personally accustomed to. Beware the offer of the amasejo (“mass area”) for sleeping: likely a piece of bare floor for which you’ll have to provide a pad and sleeping bag. (This music festival  provided “luxury” accommodation: the same space as the non-luxury, but providing a mattress and bedding. And 20 roommates. But it was 60 euro, for North and South Americans, for nine days. A guesthouse option was also available.) All things being equal, it’s nice to see the needs of the cash-strapped considered.

But in North America, our wide distances and fewer numbers make these extended festivals impractical. Enter the Urba Semajnfino, the City Weekend. Like an overnight meetup. And there may be a model here for Unitarian Universalist affinity groups who want more meeting opportunities.

The organization manual is in Esperanto, but Google Translate makes a decent job for non-Esperantists. It suggests cost savings, even if you don’t want to go as far as sharing beds, and how to price the event. Plus a suggested schedule, how to make the best use of restaurants (UUs and Esperantists both seem to attract vegetarians) and a reminder to cite the event where there are reasonable amenities and a bus or train station.

The take-away: humble and thoughtful planning makes opportunities appear. And that’s world-changing in its own way.

R&E Newsweekly: making use of church buildings in decline

This segment, from this week’s Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, pushes one my buttons: the experience that churches with just enough space are the ones that tend to survive. A recession following a big building campaign, or a congregation with unaffordable maintainance costs often leads to closure.

That, and once a religious building is lost in an expensive, built-out city (New York, Washington and Boston come to mind) it is very hard to build one later.

Innovation and mixed use is one answer.

Solutions for the ice age at the UUA

So, I understand that the HVAC systems at 24 Farnsworth Street, the new headquarters building of the Unitarian Universalist Association, aren’t quite callibrated or what-have-you and some of the staff are cold. Really cold. This happens.

As a large, well-insulated person, I tend to cope with a frosty office better than most, but I hate to think of the energy waste.

And more, I hate to think about people being cold at home or work in the winter because the cost of heating is too high. So I’m writing because of the UUA news, but as a tickler for those who face heating insecurity. The same goes in case of power outage, or simply desiring to be less dependent on limited natural resources.

This might be the right time of year for sales shopping for the goods you would need, too.

Two articles to get you on your way:

  1. Micro heaters cut 87% off my electric heat bill” by Paul Wheeler is a way to use an assortment of low-power devices to create a “heat bubble” around you in an office setting.
  2. Insulation: first the body, then the home” by Kris De Decker is a heavily-sourced review of the use of modern performance garments to make low domestic temperatures comfortable. Would a Geneva gown count?

But if the UUA staff work in conditions implied in the second article, I’d contact OSHA first!

A Unitarian Universalist wish list

Sometimes it helps to ask: “what would you like to see? what resources do you wish could exist? what connections do you wish existed? what problem would you like to resolve?” Think about issues that might concern many congregations, but may or may not be normally handled by denominational staff. I’m thinking within the Unitarian Universalist milieu, but not exclusively. I’ve got a bias towards “projects” (read that loosely) that others can build upon or modify to suit particular circumstances.

Ideas, anyone?

Dvorak keyboard two months later

I’ve been full time on the Dvorak keyboard since the end of January, and am just now able to type at anything approaching a normal speed — but I get faster every day. I don’t move my hands nearly as much, my wrists don’t hurt, I have to use all of my fingers and — curiously — I type rather well with my eyes closed.

But I was a very frustrating process and as close as experiencing the motor disability of a stroke as I ever hope to have. (That said, there are versions of Dvorak for those with the use of only one hand.)

Free legal guides for living

At home and at work. I love the guides published by Nolo Press, and I think they’re darn near indispensible for anyone managing or organizing a church.

I’ve noticed that this publisher of legal guides has branched out a bit, and so borrowed their The Sharing Solution, a book about managing cooperation and sharing of resources, from the public library. Had to return it today, and so looked on line at the publisher site to find out more about it (and see if it would cheap to buy as an ebook.) Instead, I discovered that Nolo has released the text of this and several other of consumer titles online for use free of charge. It is suitable for reading online — this is the text, not a PDF — and not a bad idea to upsell the print or PDF version for those who are more interested it and can afford the cost.

And this last qualification is important. A motif loosely connects the free books: making do with less money and preserving job, business and home. So this information may be vital for some.

Check for yourself. (Nolo Press)