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IntraHealth OPEN and Youssou N’Dour promote Open Source for Health in Africa with music downloads

Paul, · Categories: General

Coming February 6th at this location from Youssou N’Dour and IntraHealth! Follow IntraHealthOPEN on Twitter

Download a song, open the future of a continent.

Featuring: Youssou N’Dour, Nas, Estelle, Peter Buck, Q-Burns Abstract Message, Toubab Krewe, Afrissippi, Duncan Sheik, Beef Wellington, Hawke

Youssou N’Dour believes a song can change lives. And major recording artists from around the globe have joined him to release a series of remixes in support of IntraHealth OPEN–a new initiative that will change how people think about health, technology and the developing world. Help put the latest advances in open source technology into the hands of Africans to solve the most critical public health issues of our day.

Music can make a difference, and so can you. We invite you to download the remixes of Youssou N’Dour’s single “Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling)” for free, and encourage you to make a donation to this important work.

It’s an “open source song” in support of open source technology, designed to open up endless possibilities for the developing world.

Why Open Source?
Open source technology is ideally suited for application in low-resource environments, being collaborative, transparent and free of licensing and upgrade fees. It encourages independent, affordable and creative solutions to the biggest health and infrastructure problems in the developing world, from shortages of doctors and nurses, to access to maternal and child health care, to distribution of the medications needed to fight and prevent infectious diseases. Using Web-based interfaces, mobile phones and PDAs, open source systems can provide far-reaching and innovative tools to support increased efficiency, productivity and performance of health services and information to meet the needs of families and communities across the continent.

Most importantly, with targeted training and support, open source solutions can enable African developers and health professionals to create, customize and grow systems themselves based on their needs and realities.

IntraHealth: A Catalyst for Public Health & Open Source in Africa. IntraHealth mobilizes local talent to create sustainable and accessible health care in developing countries. As part of this mission, IntraHealth has been collaborating with African governments and private institutions to design and apply open source solutions to strengthen their ability to use health information for strategic health policy and planning.
Working to connect and support new and on-going technology efforts, the IntraHealth OPEN initiative will emphasize forming global alliances, expanding access to infrastructure, and developing new skills and tools that are cost-efficient and technically viable at the country level.

Inauguration Poetry

Paul, · Categories: General

Poems written for special occasions rarely measure up. Seems like the more important the occasion the greater the level of failure. US Presidential Inauguration poems have not had a happy history.

The first poem read at an inauguration was Robert Frost’s “Gift Outright” read at the John Kennedy inauguration. Frankly, Frost had it easy. He had published the poem two decades earlier in “Witness Tree” (1942) and won the Pulitzer Prize for that book. The poem was already known by Kennedy from their time at Harvard. Well-enough known that Kennedy suggested a few tweeks to the poem. In the final line, changing “would” to “will” for example. At 86, Frost was already a well-known master of poetry, but even he could not resist overdoing it. He added an overlong tedious preface to the poem (called sometimes “The Dedication”). Either by luck or by art, the wind seemed to blow his pages out of his hands as he started to read or some say he couldn’t read the print. In any case, we are lucky to left with his reciting the poem “Gift” sans preface in the cold January air.

Jimmy Carter sought to built the poem presentation into a tradition when he invited James Dickey to write a new poem and read it at his inauguration. Dickey’s poem, “The Strength of Fields” isn’t a bad read. Dickey’s slightly avant garde typography did cause some problems for many newspapers that printed the poem (in my memory at least) and for some readers. Oddly, Dickey isn’t often counted in the poets having created official inaugural poems in many current news stories.

Poetry took another rest until the election of Bill Clinton. Clinton invited former-Arkansas poet (then living in North Carolina) Maya Angelou to write and read her poem at his inauguration. Her poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” which began “A Rock, A River, A Tree” was considered completely overboard in its reach and political inclusiveness — what made Whitman one of our greatest didn’t seem to be working out for Angelou according to critics. Nonetheless “Pulse” sold over a million copies.

For his second Inaugural, Clinton invited another Arkansan Miller Williams to create and read a poem. Williams’ poem, “Of History and Hope,” was almost immediately forgotten. It’s not a bad poem but it is a very safe poem. Not audacious like Angelou’s nor experimental like Dickey’s nor well-tested and already loved by some like Frost’s, just safe and not very challenging.

This was the lineage that poet Elizabeth Alexander entered today as she recited her “Praise Song for the Day: A Poem for Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration.” The poem hints at formality without becoming a strong mind-sticking rhythm and rhyme machine like Frost built in “Gift” or falling into a staggering plod like “Dedication.” It never reaches for an experimental edge as Dickey’s “Fields.” It lacks the audacious energy of Angelou but avoids some of her silliness — although for some that silliness is the attraction of Angelou’s “Pulse.”

I fear that Alexander is more like Miller Williams than William Carlos Williams. Safe reliable sincere and not very memorable.

On the other hand, the Rev. Joseph Lowery begin his benediction by reciting the last verse of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing” a poem also known as the lyrics of the Negro National Anthem (1899). That poem seemed fresh and relevant and timely and appropriate for the occasion especially coming from the 87 year old Lowery. And both memorable and moving.

Science Online 09, The Opposite(s) of Property, Steam Power and Carrboro Obama Fest

Paul, · Categories: General

The weekend so far has been jammed. I started out at a Science Online 09 pre-conference event, a Coffee Cupping at Counter Culture in Durham, spent Saturday morning at the conference, headed over to Duke Law for the Opposite(s) of Property conference which was also a celebration of James Boyle’s new The Public Domain, today we had a more successful and better lubricated run of our Empire Steam Engine (B31 from the mid-1920s) and a pause to celebrate both MLK Day and Inauguration Day a little early in the Carrboro way.

Counter Culture Coffee
Counter Culture, where the #scio09 cupping was held, is a fair exchange coffee roaster and wholeseller. There about 50 Science Online folks (about 1/4 of the conference attendees) were initiated into the practice and culture and vocabulary of coffee cupping.

Science Online 09
The Science Online 09 aka #scio09 Conference was booked up — we don’t sell tickets so it can’t really sell out — having hit our limit of 200 attendees in October. This is the third conference and at each one I’ve been less involved in organizing it. Anton and Bora really have it completely under control. It was a smoothly run professional conference while still keeping in touch with its popular and lovingly amateur roots. Folks were asked to bring fruit for example and they did. We had plenty of good fruit. Speakers were held to time by the audience and the audience took charge when they didn’t. Not in a bad way but in a way that reminded speakers that they were to be primarily moderators who kicked off and managed discussion. The sessions were more on content and style now and less how to set up a blog or how to make a business. A very good session on the Science Commons during which many of the folks speaking at the Duke Law School at the same time were mentioned was my cue to head over to catch that conference. If you were at #scio09, please take a few minutes to fill out this feedback form.

Opposite(s) of Property
I arrived at Duke just as David Lange, one of my favorite lawyers, was responding to Jedediah Purdy‘s presentation on the History of the Public Domain. David has so much fun with ideas and language that even as he references material that is totally unfamiliar to me I will follow him and relish the experience. Boyle, as noted earlier in this blog, is also a performer of the first order and was a pleasure to see and hear. The discussion was both erudite and good humored. You’ll be able to catch it here at the Duke Law site as The Opposite(s) of Property. (soon).

Empire B31
Tucker and I dismantled the piston, fly wheel, steam cylinder and drive on our 1920s Empire Metalware Steam Engine (B31) and cleaned it all up then lubed it with turbine oil. Wow! what a difference it made. The steam can really work well now and the fly wheel flies! The machine had been struggling against metal wear and liming and steam leaks from 50 year old seals. Now de-limed, mostly resealed and well lubricated, it can build up a good head of steam and run for a long time. Next to make some devices for it to drive and to put it to work. One other big challenge is to replace the steam whistle. The original copper pipe was broken off some time in the past 40 or so years after it was bent in storage. We don’t even have the broken part to use as a model for building a new one. Any suggestions welcome.

Joe Thompson
This evening, we were over at the Orange County Campaign for Change’s pre-MLK pre-Inauguration party at Carrboro Century Center. We came into a performance on the Andean Pan Pipes by Victor (???) who was accompanied by several enthusiastic children hopping to the piper. The highlight for me tho was hearing 90 year old fiddler Joe Thompson of Mebane play and sing. Joe had the whole place rocking in an old time way as he sang “I Shall Not Be Moved.” Later in the set he mashed “Got Oil in My Vessel” with “Amazing Grace” as he was joined a bunch of backups singers and lively audience hand clappers. You can hear his Kennedy Center performance here.

Carver/Heath: Changing the story

Paul, · Categories: General

Volume E of the Heath Anthology of American Literature
I got a note yesterday by the editor of the latest edition (number 6 if you are counting) of the Instructor’s Guide to the D. C. Heath Anthology of American Literature. Some years back, I wrote the headnote, selected the story and wrote the Instructor’s Guide section for the wonderful short story writer, Raymond Carver. I had chosen “A Small, Good Thing” as the story. In part, because it was a nice length. In part, because it represented a story that was a rewrite of earlier story “The Bath.” But mostly because it represented the power and skill of Carver in his later stories as they began to focus on redemption rather than desperation. An added bonus was that after the first editions of the Anthology hit the street, Robert Altman did a movie, “Short Cuts,” based on several of Carver’s stories including “A Small, Good Thing.” A great story with a lot of opportunities for teaching about writing and story-telling.

But Edition 6 will not, does not, have “A Small, Good Thing” as the story. A better story (I would say) and a better known story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” is in its place. Time to rewrite the Instructor’s Guide! I wish it had been an opportunity to rewrite the head note as well.

If you follow Carver’s posthumous literary life, you will have seen that “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” is a disputed story with a disputed history. Carver’s widow, Tess Gallagher, favors an earlier version of the story, then called “Beginners,” as the true Carver and says, then shows that Carver’s editor Gordon Lish radically rewrote “Beginners” cutting half of its length, changing characters’ names, retitling the story and more. Gallagher attempted to publish the original story and several others including the pre-Lish, pre-“The Bath” “Small, Good Thing.” Last I noticed, Carver’s publisher, Knopf had refused her requests and had blocked her for seeking another publisher.

As noticed here about a year ago (December 24, 2007 issue), Gallagher found a home for her argument that Lish overreached and overedited in the New Yorker. The New Yorker published the entire pre-Lished “Beginners” and in an online only version published “‘Beginners,’ Edited.” I and others think that these publications make the case that Lish improved Carver, but there is plenty of room for debate — but little room for all of that in the Instructor’s Guide. Still the teaching opportunity is now even greater! Below is my rewrite of one section of the Instructor’s Guide on Carver. I can now point teachers and students to a great and highly debatable example of a writer and editor in a highly engaged interaction.

Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions

Carver’s work and the versions published have been subject to much controversy – most of this occurring posthumously – concerning the heavy involvement of editor Gordon Lish in the published versions of Carver’s stories, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” in particular. In December 24 2007, the New Yorker published the manuscript that Carver sent to Lish as “Beginners” as well as a version showing the edit imposed by Lish as he converted that manuscript into what we now call “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Immediately readers and critics took sides as to which was the better story. This is a great opportunity to talk about the role of an editor and to discuss and evaluate Lish’s changes and Carver’s original.
Nonetheless, you would want to talk about “minimalism” in fiction. The style has become so pervasive that students may just assume that this pared-down method of storytelling is simply how one writes fiction. Frederick Barthelme writes that as a minimalist “you’re leaving room for the readers, at least for the ones who like to use their imaginations.” John Barth counters with this definition of a minimalist aesthetic: “[its] cardinal principle is that artistic effect may be enhanced by a radical economy of artistic means, even where such parsimony compromises other values: completeness, for example, or richness or precision of statement.” Carver was at first the most influential practitioner of minimalism (perhaps because of Lish’s editing), and then, through the rewriting (or reclaiming) of his earlier stories, a writer who repudiated the style.
Luckily, Carver’s stories can be used to show both the power of the so-called minimalist approach and its limits. Have the students first read the brief (ten-page) story “The Bath,” which was the earlier version of “A Small, Good Thing.” “The Bath” is an excellent example of what minimalism does well and can be more terrifying and unsettling than anything by Stephen King. Contrast-ing and comparing “The Bath” and “A Small, Good Thing” from Carver’s later, more expansive period will allow the students to participate in the intense debate about style. Carver preferred the second version, but he didn’t pass judgment on those who like “The Bath” best.
Another useful approach for showing the nuances of revision at work in Carver’s writing is to look at a few other versions of his stories. A particularly illustrative case is a short-short-story of under five hundred words that has been known as “Mine” (Furious Seasons), “Popular Mechanics” (What We Talk About When We Talk About Love), and “Little Things” (Where I’m Calling From). The last two differ only in title, but there are significant differences in “Mine.” Students need not be textual critics to talk about the choices that Carver has made in the various versions of his stories.
Finally, students can be asked to consider the effect of translating Carver’s story into film narrative by watching the relevant portion of Robert Altman’s Short Cuts.

UPDATE: Just heard from the Health editor and the Heath production folks. They are sending Volume E, the one with Carver in it, to production now! But they will accept a brief update to the headnote! I sent this as the penultimate paragraph:

Yet there is new controversy about Carver’s rewriting and of his relationship to his editors, particularly Lish. The recent publication of “Beginners” in the New Yorker, the story that would become – after extensive editing by Lish – “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” and the accompanying article and an online exclusive displaying Lish’s edits in detail show that Carver’s rewriting may have been as much an attempt to recover his stories as an enlargement of earlier minimalist works. Once some legal issues can be resolved, we will be able to have a much closer look at Carver’s process, intentions and art as well as an ability to evaluate the relationship between Carver and Lish.

1925ish Empire Metalware B31 Steam Engines in Action

Paul, · Categories: General

I’ve been carrying around one of my father’s — or perhaps his father’s — old toys for several decades. It’s a wonderful, if well worn, red and chrome vertical toy steam engine of a type made between 1921 and 1931 by Empire Metalware in Two Rivers, WI, an Empire Metalware B31. So far our biggest obstacle to getting the thing in a working state was finding a cord that would deliver electricity to the heater. Yesterday, we finally found one that, while it was not of the wonderful old school rayon covered cable, still managed to do the job. No used appliance store, hardly any hardware, no electric specialty shop could help us get the cord. Finally we found one at a small Ace Hardware — not old school, but it makes the connection.

Well, it sorta worked initially and it sorta didn’t. Of course having fittings and washers that hadn’t been replaced in over 40 years is one reason. But with power delivered we were hopeful we could get to the next level. The thing did heat water even if it didn’t much turn the fly wheel or pump the piston.

Vinegar fixed that problem by de-liming all the joints and pipes. Soon we were turning the wheel and letting off steam. But the de-liming also exposed even more leaky seals. As you see below, we do have more work to do.

A completely repaired and restored Empire would look and work like this:

To get our machine fixed even close to that level, we’ll be following IndianaRog’s great repair advice and improvising a bit on our own. It won’t be a one day deal — then it took a week — with a break for me to be sick in the middle — just to get the cord. And thanks to Rog, I’m on the trail of a replacement whistletop too through Don Stilson of New York.