Is Blogging Dead?

Hard at WorkLast night I read a Wired magazine article about how Twitter, Facebook and Flickr have killed blogging. The article starts with this anti-blogging sentiment:

“Thinking about launching your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug.”

I’ve been blogging since 1998 (coming up on my 10-year anniversary!), so this is an interesting discussion for me. I definitely agree that Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and all the other content-publishing tools out there have changed the face of blogging. My own blogging has changed drastically since I began using Twitter.

But I don’t see the blog going away.

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Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome is Beyond Bizarre

Mad Max: Beyond ThunderdomeI’ve been thinking about writing a post-apocalyptic fiction novel for National Novel Writing Month, so a couple nights ago I sat down and watched Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Now I chose that movie not because it’s the best example of a post-apocalyptic movie I could think of (there’d be many others, from Mad Max: Road Warrior which I would have picked if I hadn’t watched it a few months ago, to Children of Men to I Am Legend, which is more horror but does a nice job with the setting), but because I haven’t seen it in a while and it has a good mix of post-apocalyptic fun.

Plus: Jokes about pig poop.

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Homelessness Is On the Rise

This Sign Is My RoofLet’s talk about something less political. Sort of.

More middle-class professionals are becoming homeless:

  • “The Burbank Temporary Aid Center has experienced a 66% increase in requests for assistance in the last 18 months, Executive Director Barbara Howell said. About half of those seeking help are middle-class people experiencing homelessness for the first time.”
  • “Andy Bales, president of the Union Rescue Mission, said he’s also seeing professionals and other middle-class people coming into the mission who are experiencing homelessness for the first time, including former mission donors.”
  • “It’s America’s new shantytown,” Roberts said. “It’s happening everywhere—Seattle, San Diego and Denver. I think it’s a reflection of the economic times. The social safety net in our society is failing.”

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Historic Tax Rates in the U.S.: Socialist?

There’s a lot of debate going around right now about tax policy. I thought it’d help to look at the actual tax rates compared to historic numbers. But let’s keep in mind that I took Math for Elementary Education in college (i.e., I’m no mathematician or economist).

The big question seems to be whether or not Barack Obama’s tax policy is socialist (or how socialist is it, depending on your perspective). So let’s take a look at those proposed income tax brackets and compare them to historic income brackets.

To simplify things, I’m only looking at income tax rates for the highest bracket:

  • Current income tax: 35% for those earning more than $357,700.
  • Obama’s proposed income tax: 39.6% for those earning more than $357,700.
  • McCain’s proposed income tax: remain at 35%
    (The current tax brackets are set to expire and revert to 2000 levels, so both Obama and McCain talk about their plans as cuts, which is a bit misleading. They’re both talking about extending the cuts, except that Obama wants to expire the cuts for the top two brackets; Source)

So the difference between McCain and Obama for the top bracket is 4.6% (for the second highest bracket the difference is 3%; for other brackets there’s no difference*). I have a hard time believing that 4.6% pushes us into socialist territory. The fact is both favor a progressive tax policy where the more money you make the greater percentage of taxes you pay.

Bottomline: The McCain and Obama tax proposals are relatively similar. Compared to a historic perspective, they’re very similar.

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Why I’m Voting for Barack Obama

Barack ObamaIn the 2008 presidential election I’m going to be voting for Barack Obama. That’s probably not a surprise to people who know me, but I feel the need to explain that position.

I’ve been contemplating this post for some time. Should I even write it? As a person who makes a living writing for a faith-based market (for the most part), it’s some what dangerous to talk about politics. There’s a very real possibility that people won’t hire me because of my political views. It’s happened for much lesser reasons.

But I guess because of that rationale I feel compelled to give a defense for why I’m voting for Barack Obama. I’d rather someone understand my reasoning and still reject me than reject me based on an assumption from something random like a Twitter post.

I think this will be the first time I’ve ever publicly blogged about who I’m voting for. The above rationale is part of the reason, but I’ve also never cared that much about politics. Part of the reason why I’m doing it this year is because of how important the times are. That’s said every year (I said it last election), but this election is historic on several fronts.

Ground Rules
I’m not going to load this post up with links and sources. Perhaps I should, but writing this is going to be grueling enough. I don’t have time to track down all the links. My arguments have come from watching the debates, listening to the candidates, following the campaigns and reading fact check sites. That said, feel free to call me on facts that I get wrong.

I’d also like to remind people of the importance of disagreeing well. How we disagree perhaps says more about our character than what we agree on.
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More Islamic Witch Hunts from Katherine Kersten

Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten is at it again. In the spring she claimed the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TIZA) charter school was violating separations of church and state by teaching Islam (the state disagreed, with two minor exceptions). Now she’s claiming that a new group launching three new charter schools, the Minnesota Education Trust (MET), has their own Islamic agenda. I can’t believe I’m having to write about this again.

Kersten may be raising valid points, but they’re lost in her rhetoric and lack of balance. She points out that one of MET’s first priorities is “to promote the message of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims and promote understanding between them,” and then asks the question, “How can an organization dedicated to promoting religion be qualified to sponsor public schools?”

Great question. How can organizations with similar religious goals like Bethel University, North Central University, Concordia University and Friends of Ascension—all sponsors of charter schools in Minnesota—be qualified to sponsor public schools?

Continue reading More Islamic Witch Hunts from Katherine Kersten

NaNoWriMo 2008

National Novel Writing Month 2008 ParticipantNext Saturday begins National Novel Writing Month and I think I’m going to partake again. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was editing my last novel in vague hopes of finishing in time for NaNoWriMo 2008. I wasn’t sure if I’d actually finish, but I think I’m getting close. At least close enough that I can hand it off to someone else and let them tell me if it’s any good or not. Which gets the thing off my desk for at least a couple weeks.

All of which begs the question: What on earth do I write about this year?

Part of me thinks I should stick to my strengths, which seem to be character-driven stories centered around tragedy (assuming you consider either of my novels good enough to be strengths). But another part of me thinks it’s time to try something new. Maybe some post-apocalyptic fiction? Maybe cheesy yet subversive Christian fiction (like a Christian version of Liar, Liar called Preacher, Preacher where the main character can’t stop himself from preaching at everyone, no matter how wildly inappropriate the situation is)? Maybe something else completely?

All day long I’ve been mulling the possibilities. The biggest danger is I only have one week to figure out what the heck I’m doing, and then 30 days to put down 50,000 words.

Muslim Americans

Arlington National Cemetery tombstone of Muslim American soldier Kareem Rashad Sultan KhanA couple weeks ago I wrote about how Barack Obama isn’t a Muslim—but what if he was? Who cares? Sometimes it’s nice to be backed up. In this case former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell has my back:

“I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, ‘Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.” (Meet the Press)

Powell went on to talk about a 20-year-old soldier who died in Iraq and earned a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. His name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan and he was a Muslim. He was 14 on a 9/11 and wanted to show people that not all Muslims are fanatics. He served and died for his country, proving that point.

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I Survived Being Homeless

Jesus Was HomelessFor those wondering about my homeless experience last week, I survived. Barely. It was pretty miserable, but mostly because I got sick and spent the whole night trying not to throw up on my tentmates. Being sick wasn’t part of the plan, but I don’t think the real homeless have that choice.

It was nonetheless a good experience if only because it forced me to understand the reality of being homeless. It’s hard to understand how completely out of options a person is when they have no where for themselves and their kids to sleep. And yeah, that’s the other kicker. More and more families are homeless.

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We Are One America

Welcome to Pro-AmericaSo Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman said Barack Obama may be anti-American on Friday and suggested that other members of Congress were anti-American and should be investigated (now she’s blaming Chris Matthews for trapping her).

Then we have Sarah Palin talking about how much she enjoys visiting the “pro-American” parts of America. She too has quickly back tracked and acknowledges that all of America is pro-American.

And now John McCain is saying Western Pennsylvania is the “most God-loving, most patriotic part of the country.” I never knew we even had a God-lovin’ patriot contest.

So much of this is just politics and pandering to locale. It all reeks of who’s wearing a flag pin.

I appreciate how Barack Obama responded during his speech in Tampa Bay, Fla. yesterday:

There are no real or fake parts of this country. We are not separated by the pro-America and anti-America parts of this nation—we all love this country, no matter where we live or where we come from. There are patriots who supported this war in Iraq and patriots who opposed it; patriots who believe in Democratic policies and those who believe in Republican policies. The men and women from Florida and all across America who serve on our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America—they have served the United States of America.

We have always been at our best when we’ve had leadership that called us to look past our differences and come together as one nation, as one people; leadership that rallied this entire country to a common purpose—to a higher purpose. And I am running for President of the United States of America because that is the country we need to be right now.

You can hear the audio on NPR (starts about 2:40). I couldn’t find the report I actually heard which had better audio, and I’d love to see the video.