News Press v Sports Press

I have been musing in the late night hours of newborn awakedness about many things.
As the election progressed, I kept being reminded that we have become a very insular country, and have stopped getting really good reporting from the rest of the world. We thus don’t always understand what is going on elsewhere, and this lack of understanding certainly contributes to some wacky positioning by candidates vis-a-vis foreign policy.
I am especially reminded of this when I visit other news sites from outside of the US (particularly the BBC & Al-Jazeera). I know that Al-Jazeera has had correspondents on the ground all over the world (including in Northern Mali throughout the rebellion up there).
Our large papers, radio & tv stations / wire services used to have correspondents based in other places around the globe – people who knew what was going on and had local contacts. When stories needed to be told and conveyed with depth & nuance and in a way Americans could understand – that could be done. These people have been brought back stateside, or those positions converted to stringer positions where folks on the ground hustle and sell stories to whatever media outlet wants them.
Contrast this to the explosive growth of sports media. 15 years ago there was not much in the way of sports coverage – certainly not in the way we know it now. Now – our news organizations all send multiple people to major games in many major sports all over the globe – even for sports Americans are not traditionally fond of watching. I’m sure there are probably at least 10-20 reporters for American outlets at major European soccer tournaments.
What does that say about our willingness to be distracted by sport? Are we willing to pay to be distracted, but not pay to be informed? How do we expect to stay ahead of what is going on in the world if we don’t pay professionals to dig out stories and tell them to us in ways that help us better understand the world around us?
Being now in a data frame of mind – I’d love to get real numbers around these things – how many foreign positions existed 5/10/15/20/25/30 years ago? How many new sports journalist positions have been added by US outlets in the past 5/10/15 years? Did this shift happen only in the US – or are other markets affected similarly?

Elena Cleo Ross Ludwig

If you haven’t heard – we had a baby! Elena Cleo Ross Ludwig was born September 25, 2012 at 9:22 pm.

Alli & I are so proud and honored to welcome Elena!

She is the:
Great-great-grand-daughter of Lona Cleo & Arthur, Dorothy & Frank, Giuseppi & Ugolina, Margaret & George, Mildred & Arthur, Rachel & Max, Anna & Barney, Rebecca & Abraham.
Great-grand-daughter of Edith & Charles, Florence & Jules, Helen & Corwin, Gina & Milton
Grand-daughter of Ann & David, Betty & Charles
Daughter of Alli & Erich
Elena – a popular Greek, Spanish, Romanian and Italian version of the ancient Greek name Helen/Helene, meaning “light” and “beautiful”. Also used in Bulgarian, Macedonian, Croatian, Slovene, Lithuanian, Swedish, Russian, German, and Medieval Slavic cultures. The Elena variation of Helen dates back to the 12th century.
In these various cultures it means: the bright one, light, mercy, torchlight, sun ray, shining light…
Elena – Helen & Edith (and E is for all the other E names in our families)
Cleo – Helen & her mother Lona (both of their middle names), C is also for Charles & Charles, Corwin and all the other C names in our families)
Elena Cleo was born on Kol Nidre of the Jewish Year 5773. Kol Nidre is part of the “10 Days Of Awe” during the most holy part of the Jewish ritual year, and signals the start of Yom Kippur – the most holy day of the year. In our reading, an aspect of these holidays includes asking others to forgive us for any wrongs or offenses from the past year. It is also when we invoke that divine internal light to bring us into the new year.
As we know that she has already brought huge amounts of light into our life in just a few short/long weeks, our wish for Elena is that she carry on the strength, light and wisdom of the women in our lineage.
If you’d like to see some pictures I am posting them on Flickr and they are viewable ONLY to those who are my contacts on Flickr – if you don’t know how to make that happen – please let me know and I’ll walk you through the simple process.

We are blessed with abundance in our life in many ways. We are also blessed with privileges we’ve not earned. Elena will benefit from these privileges and our abundance. And she is already benefitting from the generosity of friends and family who have given us and her so much.

While we LOVE and are THANKFUL for all that has been given to us – we also recognize that not everyone in the world is as lucky, as blessed, or has access to the same resources we do.

So we would ask that if you are thinking about getting us/her a present – that you do us the honor of donating to a group working on issues concerning women and/or children instead.

While we have our thoughts as to what those organizations are – we’re sure you have a favorite organization close to you.

Some causes we hold dear:

  • Batoumas Girls Fund – Our dear friend Sophie relays this story of heartbreak in such a way as to make us cry each time we read it. We know that birth is not easy – and that in many places it still is a life or death experience. We also know that Sophie will ensure that these wonderful girls get the full advantages of education.
    • Update on this from Sophie – “When I sent that email, it was after days of nervousness, and I worried that my goal of $1500 was too high. In just one week, I raised over $5000. This will pay for all three girls’ schooling for the next 10 years. I have set up a savings account in their name and will continue to accept contributions – maybe one day, they will go to college. But for now, I just want to hug everybody. It means so so much to me to remember Batouma this way. The support is overwhelming.” – to see a picture of the girls in matching green dresses on their first day of school in fall 2012 click thru this link.
  • Planned Parenthood – An organization that continues to do great work under serious pressure and politicized scrutiny.
  • Somerville Homeless Coalition – local group working on an issue that disproportionately affects women and children.

With much love & such beautiful new light.

-E & A & e

UhuruAfrika: Everything You Need Is In This House

It often takes me a bit longer than others to process things and really get to the heart of my own understanding. I often also let things “age” in my own mind – which I hope/think leads to something akin to wine or whiskey – betterment with aging.

Such is the case now, as I return from 10 days with the Urban Bush Women at their Summer Leadership Institute in New Orleans (well – here is another symbol of that long processing – SLI was July 19-29, and I started this post 2 weeks ago). At the point of starting this post, things really started to synthesize for me around a few particular thoughts. And writing this and synthesizing that have also brought forth some really old thoughts.

My original example of this long processing was that at UBW SLI we had to complete the phrase “I come from. . . ” for homework one night, and then the next day at the end of one session say a brief bit about how we completed that phrase. I went with “the earth” to reference my two grandparents and six great-grandparents that grew up on farms, and thus the connection we have to the land (as we were charged with researching our personal history and connection to the land prior to arriving in New Orleans). It also for me referenced the multitude of geographical spaces inhabited by my recent ancestors (counties, states, countries). Other folks in my Cohort came with much more nuanced and poetic depth, with two of them literally reciting breathtakingly beautiful original poems about where they come from. I came away feeling like a bit of a shallow crunchy hippy. But also determined to really continue to examine more of where I come from, and where we are going. At the same time, I felt safe and un-judged (by others), as we were working hard all week to create a space “Full of Value, Free of Judgement” to let us each process and be in our own work.
Such is an example of my delayed processing.
Another example has to do with the work we were doing with the Tekrema Community Center. When we had our initial walk through of the space I saw a sign up high on one of the shelves for “Gibbons Feed”. The space was formerly a neighborhood hardware store, and was filled with reminders of that past. This sign struck me because of our local DJ/Promoter/Activist Adam Gibbons, who has been throwing UhuruAfrika parties for the past few years in Cambridge. 
As a group we created a piece over the next 5 days and performed it / presented it to the rest of the UBW SLI crew and the Tekrema community.
Throughout the creative and performative process, I kept thinking about the Gibbons sign.
One of the phrases (both in words & movement) that we incorporated into the performance/offering was “Everything you need is in this house” which referred to the house of the Tekrema center itself, as well as the house of our bodies. This idea of self-sufficiency and self worth is staying with me as a powerful reminder.
It, and the sign, also bring up some feelings I’ve been meaning to write about UhuruAfrika, and the power of that community for a while as well – another of the aging of my thoughts.
UhuruAfrika is a unique party, a unique community gathering. It is a space filled with joy, acceptance, light, history, and a space full of value, free of judgement. If you haven’t been, you must go. Regularly held in Cambridge, the UhuruAfrika crew (Adam + Max, Sidy, Jay and Andre) also regularly perform/hold-space in Miami, Mexico, and New York. Wherever you find them, you will find the travel worth your while.
To describe the Cambridge happening in brief – you arrive and were greeted at the door (until his recent retirement) by Brother Andre Edwards, who holds down the door with grace, strength, and dignity. You enter a room decorated with love, a space that on all other nights may be dingy, dirty, and otherwise unremarkable. On these nights, the physical shortcomings of the space are present, but through the vision and love of Adam are made much less visible. Adam & Max Pela hold down the decks, spinning songs bringing people to estatic places. Jay Medina creates a visual score for the music and space via projections.
At some point in the night, Sidy Maiga will bring out his djembe and start accompanying the mix. I’ve known Sidy the longest of any of the UhuruAfrika crew (since 2001), and had the priviledge to play at some ceremonies in Mali with Sidy – ceremonies where people were put into trance for healing and for communication with the other worlds and planes of existence. So when Sidy starts playing, I know that he has the power to help people move into a healing space. It has been a very powerful thing to watch Sidy adapt his learning and skills from a traditional space into a new realm. Initially I’m not sure he really knew what he needed to do – but in the past couple years he has adapted and grown his craft to help people transcend. The adaptation to a new culture, a new space, a new music – but maintaining the power to safely transport and transform people and energy – has been a joy to watch.
Some club nights are a place to pick up someone and have a grand adventure. UhuruAfrika is not that space in the traditional sense. By and large you won’t see young women in tight black dresses nor will you see men grind up on women. What you will see is bodies on the dance floor, moving to the music, with the music. There are no wallflowers in the room. It is a house party – house dancers, breakers, african dancers, capoeiristas, and beautiful movers. The space IS inhabited by a variety of people expressing a variety of desire – but that generally is being expressed in a safe and respectful way.
The space is also inhabited by a slice of Boston that doesn’t often come together – all shades of skin, all sorts of gender expression, all sorts of ages. While house music often brings out a great diversity of people – UhuruAfrika somehow manages to take this all to another level.
So – as you can by now imagine, as I’m sure you’re quicker than I – the other night I had this revelation that everything that I need is in that house, and is fed by one Mr. Gibbons. That deep soulful house of UhuruAfrika, the space created by Adam, Sidy, Max, Jay, Andre and the rest of the UhuruAfrika crew.
So – THIS Saturday, the 25th of August, you need to come out to Cambridge, and get down. For, as you might imagine, everything you need is in this house. The last party before UhuruAfrika moves on from the aforementioned AllAsia, and a party blessed by the fabulous Rich Medina as a special guest – I’m sure the energy will be simply gorgeous.
And in one more shameless plus – please PLEASE support the Urban Bush Women as they approach 30 years of movement, research, community building and research. I have not seen such a combination of amazing effective art + amazing effective activism ever. The movement *is* the movement. Join the movement.

And so it begins…

Great first night here in NOLA for the 2012 UBW SLI. Awesome people, great vibe.

Our cohort (of ~30 people) will be working with what appears to be a pretty awesome community partner.

They are the Tekrema Cultural Center in the 9th Ward, a vibrant community space founded by SLI alumna Greer Mendy.
We will be spending time and staging our performance there.
Check them out:
More soon – we visit them tomorrow.


  1. Walk or bike to work every day.
  2. No email, text, web, or social media while walking to work.
  3. Minimum 1 hour of non-computer time every day at work.
  4. Maximum of 2 hours computer time outside of work every day – including weekends.
  5. Return to physical medium for all GTD work – bring back the calendar!
  6. Weekly Digital Sabbath / Shabbat – 24 hours of unpluggedness.

Wealth: Reclaiming and Reframing, A Festival of Art Place and Ideas in New Orleans

If you live near NOLA – come check out what should be an awesome day on Saturday, July 28 – all day long. The entire UBW SLI will be performing throughout the city. Check the schedule below.

Wealth: Reclaiming and Reframing, A Festival of Art Place and Ideas
Saturday, July 28th from 9:30 to 6:30

Performance 1 & Prayer Breakfast
Christian Unity Baptist Church, 1700 Conti Street

Performance 2 & Community Sing
Ashe Cultural Arts Center, 1712 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard
(Central City)

Performance 3 & “Moving Stories”
Tekrema Center for Arts and Culture, 5640 Burgundy Street
(Lower Ninth Ward)

Admission to the festival is free!

UBW’s SLI is supported by Surdna Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, Tulane University’s Gulf South Center, Junebug Productions, Ashe Cultural Arts Center, Tekrema Arts Center, Christian Unity and Golden Feather.

Getting ready for NOLA

We’re getting ready to go to New Orleans for the Urban Bush Women Summer Leadership Institute. This means getting ready to dive in body soul mind and spirit into some tough questions.

To prepare, we’ve been given a list of resources. Check it out – not sure I can get through all of this in such a short time – but going to make a valiant effort..

Anything else I should be checking out? And anyone want to volunteer to do an interview with me?

  • The Rich & The Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto
    • By Tavis Smiley & Cornel West
  • The Warmth of Other Suns
    • By Isabel Wilkerson
  • Women and Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny
    • By Suze Orman
  • Suze Orman’s Action Plan
    • By Suze Orman
  • The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom: Practical and Spiritual Steps So You Can Stop Worrying
    • By: Suze Orman
Every person who participates in the SLI is encouraged to conduct, prior to arrival in New Orleans, at least one interview with someone from your family or community about their economic journey.
  • What are their opinions regarding access to opportunities?
  • What are the family migration stories?  How did they arrive where they are now?  What facilitated or made the road difficult.
  • What practices have sustained your family and /or what has made the road rough?
  • What does it feel like to make and or nurture something tangible?
Each Participant is also encouraged to conduct personal research using the following questions as a guide, prior to your arrival in New Orleans.
  • How do the young people in your neighborhood make money?
  • What lessons or values did your family instill in you regarding money?
  • If your income doubled tomorrow, what would you do? Why?
  • If your income was cut in half tomorrow, what would you do and why?

What’s going on in Mali??

I wrote the below a good while ago – but have been sitting on it. Not sure why today I choose to publish, but it is so.
And continued insightful posts here:
And my friends have returned home to Mali, including Sali (who’s husband and kids are in rebel controlled Gao). Other friends report relatives fleeing the north to avoid the rebels, and this seems to be a pattern, with hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people throughout the country (the NYTimes had a decent photo essay this past weekend documenting this – check the photos associated with this article).
I continue to worry about the situation there, especially as gas supplies draw down in the north – affecting the generators used to bring water up from many wells…
And no one really seems to be able to grab the situation and improve it….
I pray for peace.


What’s going on in Mali?
So there are some crazy things going on in Mali now – a coup, a civil war / rebellion / uprising / reclamation (depending on your POV).
And although there are many people writing about it (most of them smarter than I, and most of them with greater access and information than I), I am compelled to write about it, to put my own thoughts in order, and to let those who I know get a bit of filtered information about what is happening.
Here are the facts as I know:
* Captain Amadou Sanogo led a coup on March 21, 2012 and has assumed power in Bamako.
* Several armed groups have overtaken large areas of northern Mali, including Timbuktu, Gao, Kidal and other smaller cities.
Beyond that, everything is gray…
How did this all happen? What does it all mean?
First off, Mali – although calm – is at the center of a few storms. Since 2001, the USA has had military advisors working with the Malian military up north to “control” the spread of “Al-Qaeda” Islamists. Since 2001, various Islamist forces have been working to spread their influence across the Sahel, including in northern Mali. Who came first? And who eggs who on? Not quite sure. In the past 10+ years, the South American drug cartels have started to firmly grab power and control in West Africa. They are using West Africa as a way-point in their transit of drugs to Europe. Does this influence extend to Malian politicians? Does it extend to “Islamist” groups in the north of Mali?
Mali has been a “democracy” for 20 years. Based on some reading (of Bamako Bruce, and other Mali-philes), and my own experience, this democracy has essentially been a “every four years” kind of democracy. People vote for politicians, and then the politicians run the country (for their own end). Without a powerful press, without a literate populace, and without an active and politically engaged populace, politicians have been free to make deals that ensure their personal prosperity (with the assumed corrallary that this is done at the expense of the rest of the population). When people complain (for example university students), they are easily pacified through government jobs or other small favors. This means that institutions are weak, people understand that they largely have no power, and may explain the perceived indifference by Malians when the coup occured.
Mali has been host to countless refugees over the years – from Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Sierra Leone, Guinea, and many other hotspots. After the coup, some of these same countries (Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal) “sealed” their borders with Mali – a step which has infuriated some Malians as they sense a failure by a neighbor to assist a brother in need.
Now the personal – one of our friends, a dance teacher who is in the USA for a couple months as a guest of Brown university lives in Gao. She has been speaking with her husband and family there, and they are safe and ok. Seydou’s brother is in the army and is not in Bamako (read – he could be up north), and Seydou maintains that he is fine. Seydou’s brother in law is/was a Minister in the Malian government, and is apparently fine (and his home & family in Bamako are also ok).
It’s been interesting to watch what people are posting on FB – those friends who have worked with musicians from the north (Tuareg) are sympathetic and enthusiastic about the turn of events in “Azawad”, which is fascinating to me – I’m not sure how this will ultimately benefit either the north or the rest of Mali.
The money quote (from Gregory Mann’s article in Foreign Policy) may be this:
“At the moment, the political game in Mali resembles two games of three-dimensional chess being played simultaneously. The first game is in the capital, where Sanogo is in over his head and seems to have no real plan for what to do next. That political game is currently at a stalemate, but a variety of opponents are looking to maneuver Sanogo into checkmate. In the second game, the Malian Sahara represents both the board and the prize — and neither the Malian military nor its rivals knows what the rules are. But the game is on.”
I’ll try and update this with some other articles and bits of info, there is some good stuff I’ve read that I haven’t linked to yet.
Who are the groups in the north:
* MNLA: Tuareg separatist movement with a “secular nationalist bent”
* Ansar Dine, an Islamist group led by Iyad ag Ghali, a Tuareg who led a major rebellion in the 1990s, and who recently served in Libya fighting for Qadaffi.
* al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – half-opportunistic, half-islamist – almost entirely non-“Malian” (to take the pre-coup land boundaries as definition of Malian-ness)
If you want to read some good articles, check these out:
* – many of the “quoted” sections above are taken from this excellent article
* – check out the section heading “11:00 am” for some really good stuff on the democratic situation.
* – decent short overview by the BBC
For more reading, check out this great blog (by a guy I know who came through Brown – the Malian nexus in the northeast):
And even more stuff can be found linked from this page of Americans & Friends in Mali:

Online Learning at Public Universities

As you might imagine, I pay attention to articles about learning online. My job is to train as many people as possible about Drupal (and in using Drupal). So online learning is clearly a large component of our forward looking strategy.
Articles like the below from today’s Boston Globe catch my eye…
There’s not much to say after reading this other than
  1. Thers is some cool experimentation happening with online learning right now, and we’ll need much more measured research to learn how online tools can be applied to solve our world’s educational gaps.
  2. We must not lose sight of the fact that creation of high quality, effective materials still requires significant investment upfront, and significant investment to maintain and evolve that material. In this area, these tools are no different than traditional tools (and in fact, are probably more expensive). But – many more students can theoretically be reached, thus lowering the per-student cost of course material creation.

The report backing this article can be downloaded on this site.

22 May 2012
Boston Globe By Mary Carmichael GLOBE STAFF
Findings give boost to online classes
Method effective, study concludes
‘They see now that it is a valid way to teach. It’s undeniable.’
JOAN THORMANN, professor at Lesley University
The burgeoning movement to put more college classes online, which attracted the support of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology earlier this month, is getting another endorsement that may have an even greater impact: rigorous evidence that the computer can be as effective as the classroom.
A new study compared two versions of an introductory statistics course, one taught face to face by professors and one mostly taught online with only an hour a week of face time. Researchers found students fared equally well in both formats on every measure of learning. The only difference was that the online group appeared to learn faster.
The report — being released Tuesday by Ithaka S+R, a nonprofit think tank focused on technology and education — is the first large, randomized study to support online learning. Ithaka also published another report in early May laying out the current landscape of online higher education.
Taken together, the reports ‘‘don’t suggest that interactive online learning is far better than traditional forms of instruction — but even in its infancy, it does well,’’ said Lawrence Bacow, the former Tufts University president, who co-authored the first paper. ‘‘And today’s students become tomorrow’s faculty. They will have much greater comfort using these tools. This is only going to get better over time.’’
The report also suggests that online courses can suit a wide variety of students, not just the elite. Previous studies have looked at small groups of students or only those with strong intellectual or financial backgrounds. Other comparative studies used research techniques that could have skewed their results, such as neglecting to randomly assign students to online or in-person instruction.
But the Ithaka study looked at hundreds of students randomly assigned to comparable online and in-person statistics classes at six public universities. Many of the students had family incomes of less than $50,000 and college grade point averages of lower than 3.0. Even those groups learned as well online as they did in the classroom.
‘‘ The notion that online courses might work at MIT or Harvard or Stanford or Carnegie Mellon is in a certain sense neither here or there, because those places are going to survive and thrive whatever they do,’’ said James Mccarthy, president of Suffolk University, who helped design and implement the new study. ‘‘Whether this approach works across a broader spectrum of institutions is what really matters.’’
Mccarthy plans to distribute the report to administrators at Suffolk and hopes to pilot the online statistics course as early as next spring. Online education may be a lifesaver for middle-tier universities, many of which are financially strapped. By allowing them to adapt free materials for their own use — and teach the information to many more students than can fit in a classroom — it could save them money.
‘‘I honestly feel that for the first time we have a potential model that can totally change the teaching and learning process while lowering costs,’’ said William ‘‘Brit’’ Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland and an adviser to Ithaka. ‘‘I just don’t know where we go as a country if we aren’t able to deliver on some new paradigm that will accomplish those twin goals.’’
Online instruction has been the talk of higher education in recent months as prestigious universities and venture capitalists alike have jumped in with plans to offer classes to the masses, typically free and sometimes with credentials attached.
‘‘It’s unreal how fast this space has heated up,’’ said Michael Horn, executive director of the Innosight Institute, a think tank that focuses on innovation in education. ‘‘It has become a ‘cool’ problem for engineers to solve.’’
On announcing that Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology would partner on the edx initiative, Rafael Reif — MIT’S new president — said online courses ‘‘will probably, quite frankly, revolutionize the way higher education is practiced in the next few years.’’
But there have been skeptics, too, as academics have questioned whether it is advisable or even possible to provide a good education largely via screen. Even online education’s advocates acknowledge they are not yet sure how best to deliver it.
‘‘This is like the automobile industry in 1912,’’ said Lawrence Summers, the former Harvard president and Treasury secretary who now chairs the advisory board of a major online-education startup, the Minerva Project. ‘‘We don’t know what the right model will be.’’
The new report demonstrates that at least one model — a highly interactive one, with brief in-person tutorials — works. ‘‘People can no longer dig their heels in and say, ‘Oh, I can’t do this, my subject matter can’t be communicated in an online format,’ ’’ said Joan Thormann, a professor at Lesley University who published a book this year on how to design and deliver Web-based courses. ‘‘They see now that it is a valid way to teach. It’s undeniable, and it’s unavoidable.’’
Bill Bowen, Ithaka’s founding chairman and a co-author of the new report, said that if online classes are to truly transform higher education, one piece is still missing: a large investment in basic, free versions of courses that universities could tweak for their own purposes.
Creating high-quality online courses ‘‘is not easy work to do, and it is not an approach that can be developed campus by campus,’’ Bowen said.
‘‘No individual campus can really muster the resources — in not just money, but also talent,’’ he said. ‘‘One hopes the foundation world, or maybe the government, will step up and invest.’’