Honoring the Writers of Northeast Minnesota

Organizers of the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards (NEMBA) have posted a “date due” notice – not for loaned library books but for nominations of books for the 29th Annual NEMBA. The awards recognize books that are substantially representative of northeastern Minnesota which includes Aitkin, Carleton, Cook, Itasca, Kanabec, Koochiching, Lake, Pine and St. Louis counties. Categories include these:

  • Nonfiction
  • Fiction
  • Art and Photography
  • Children’s literature
  • Poetry

Eligible titles must have been originally released in 2016; nominations should include a nonrefundable entry fee ($25) for each title.

The annual awards are co-sponsored by the University of Minnesota Duluth Kathryn A. Martin Library and the Friends of the Duluth Public Library. An awards reception honoring all nominated authors will be held on Thursday, May 18, in the Kirby Ballroom on the UMD campus. The reception is free and open to the public.

For past recipients and more about the awards, click here: http://www.d.umn.edu/lib/nemba/award.htm

Questions? Call 218 726 7889 or email libnemba@d.umn.edu.

 

 

Discovering truth starts with independent thinking

Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.  Albert Einstein

The fake news flap, having gone viral, is now a topic of social hand wringing. It’s trendy to fret about fake advertising while extremists charge that fake news is a phantom fashioned by the mainstream media to discredit the “competition.”

With all the lamentations and calls for censorship, little attention has focused on realistic solutions to what is in truth a pernicious threat to our politics, physical and mental health, individual and societal equilibrium.

Thinking about how to cope with the reality of fake news – which will only get more sophisticated — inevitably leads me back to the realization that the solution lies not with the source or even the target of misinformation and disinformation – the power, and thus the solution, rests with the “missing link” – the receiver of information.

In earlier posts my focus has been on the need to hone the basic skills of the post-truth age – how to locate and then evaluate information, how to relate sources of information to good decision-making, whatever the context. Clearly, “information literacy” is an essential first step.

The challenge is to go beyond find, assess and apply skills to deal with the fact that the receiver of information – whether student or voter, politician or parent. We are sentient human beings whose mode for processing information is insanely complex. Granted it’s more complicated than censoring or censuring the producer or connector; focus on the receiver, the “missing link” on the information chain, recognizes that information is inert until a human being gives it life, puts it to work, turns information into an opinion or incentive to act.

The first step is to consider the situation and condition of the information user – what does the user need? To date, the emphasis has been on information skills. My thought is that we need to know more about the condition of the receiver, in particular the role of self-confidence as a component of critical thinking. It takes self-confidence to welcome new ideas and match them against our own beliefs.

In an intriguing essay entitled “losing the courage of convictions” Timothy Ogden presents this puzzle:

There’s an old saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.  Unfortunately, it’s probably got things exactly backward. The more you stand for and defend the beliefs you strongly hold, the more likely you are to fall for anything – anything that confirms your existing beliefs.”

 A thought to ponder…..

The initial challenge is to fire up inquiring minds so that they have the confidence to assess, compare and weigh the facts. Only then comes the tools to locate, then assess and evaluate the relevance and truth of information – broadly defined to include everything from tweets to infographics to juried journals.

Though skepticism gets a bad rap, the skeptic, aka critical thinker, possesses and builds both the confidence and the skills to examine assumptions, weigh alternatives, confront one’s own or others’ biases.   Confidence sparks a sense of inquiry and independent thinking. Success will favor the seeker who is master of the tools.  The challenge of this chaotic era is to envision, then work to create and sustain, a society of confident seekers of truth.

 

 

 

Creating a culture of encounter – some info tools

Creating a culture of encounter

My first reaction was negative, until I realized that, heretofore in this democracy, “encounter” has not been a pejorative term. “Creating a culture of encounter” is the theme of National Migration Week 2017 (January 8-14), an initiative of the U.S. Conference of Bishops. Though the effort may be dismissed as parochial, it is one of numerous immigration-related initiatives ongoing and forthcoming in the faith community. It also signals the urgency to concentrate our thoughts and energy on the challenge before us.

The persistance of plans to Build the Wall permeates the nation’s political and social discourse. The leadership of the faith community is needed and readily accessible at this hour.

By training and habit, my inclination is to start with the facts – and there is no better source than Ballotpedia for a profile of immigration facts across the nation:  https://ballotpedia.org/Immigration_in_the_United_States

For an overview of the complexities and legal intricacies of family-based integration the authoritative Congressional Research Service has prepared this excellent report: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/R43145.pdf

To understand the human pain of mass deportation read this commentary published in the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/27/us-mexico-mass-deportations-refugees-central-america

Minnesota resources:

Resources that reflect the current state of immigration in Minnesota abound; these are some good starting points for state-specific information – they’ll lead to more (maybe more than you want to know about the issues…..)

Just a few Minnesota organizations that are taking a lead – these will lead you to countless others::

Resources that illuminate the lives of immigrants:

On an ongoing basis follow Greg Aamot’s articles in MinnPost: https://www.minnpost.com/author/gregg-aamot

These are simply sparks that may kindle the quest to create a culture of encounter — encounters of the sort that fuel the mind, warm the heart, build and sustain a just society.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating a culture of encounter where it matters most

Creating a culture of encounter

My first reaction was negative, until I realized that, heretofore in this democracy, “encounter” has not been a pejorative term. “Creating a culture of encounter” is the theme of National Migration Week 2017 (January 8-14), an initiative of the U.S. Conference of Bishops. Though the effort may be dismissed as parochial, it is one of numerous immigration-related initiatives ongoing and forthcoming in the faith community. It also signals the urgency to concentrate our thoughts and energy on the challenge before us.

The persistance of plans to Build the Wall permeates the nation’s political and social discourse. The leadership of the faith community is needed and readily accessible at this hour.

By training and habit, my inclination is to start with the facts – and there is no better source than Ballotpedia for a profile of immigration facts across the nation:

https://ballotpedia.org/Immigration_in_the_United_States

For an overview of the complexities and legal intricacies of family-based integration the authoritative Congressional Research Service has prepared this excellent report: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/R43145.pdf

To understand the human pain of mass deportation read this commentary published in The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/27/us-mexico-mass-deportations-refugees-central-america

Minnesota resources:

Resources engaged in Minnnesota immigration issues abound; these are some good starting points for state-specific information – be sure they’ll lead to more –

Just a few of the many faith-based Minnesota organizations that are at the forefront – these will lead to countless others:

http://isaiahmn.org

http://www.mnchurches.org/refugeeservices/about-us/our-services/immigration-services

Stories that illuminate the lives of immigrants:

https://immigrantstories.umn.edu

http://cla.umn.edu/ihrc/research/immigrant-stories

https://www.minnpost.com/author/gregg-aamot

These are sparks only, the hope being to inform and encourage the community of concern to heed the call to create a culture of encounter. The encounter will fuel the mind and warm the heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disabled and Proud! Listen and learn at KFAI

Among the many unsung learning resources of this community, KFAI (kfai.org) merits high marks – for independence, community support, diversity in coverage, producers, on-air hosts and more.   Though the signal is ubiquitous KFAI expands programming reach to anyone with online access.

The unique personality of KFAI lies in the fact that it is entirely volunteer-based. A committed cadre of audiophiles produce and promote a montage of listening options that reflect their proclivities, aspirations, and commitment to share a message to an underserve community of listeners. The station is also managed by a volunteer community board of directors, staff by a sparse paid staff.  Operating at 900 watts KFAI airs at 90.3 in Minneapolis, 106.7 in St. Paul; the station went live in I978 with several technical upgrades over the years.

My interest in community resources designed to reach members of the disabilities community has tuned me into one of KFAI’s notable programs, Disabled and Proud!  It’s a mix of insights, ideas, discussions and features by, about, and geared to the myriad interests of a large and diverse audience.

Sam Jasmine hosts the show, Charlene Doll helps with research and webmaster Tom Lennox forecasts future shows and archives the recordings for prospective online listeners.

The programming for Disabled and Proud! is inclusive. For example, the January 12 show shares the mission and reach of Helping Paws of Minnesota, whose mission is to further the independence of people with disabilities through the use of a service dogs.   On January 26 the guest will be Bent Renneke, PR manager of the Minnesota MS Society. Past programs have covered a wide range of topics including a series on Alzheimers and dementia took a two-pronged approach; one show dealt with the diseases themselves while a second examined the role, needs and resources for caregivers.

Listen live at 6:30 on Thursday evenings or listen online at kfai.org/disabledandproud. Email disabledandproud@tcq.net to sign up to receive regular programming updates.

 

 

Reflecting and reposting – A 12th Day of Christmas Tradition

Note:  Once again this year celebration of January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, prompts me to re-post these end-of-the-holiday thoughts first posted some years ago…. In truth, downloading and stashing the traditional trappings of the season is a depressing task that leads to reflections of Christmases past.  Re-posting  shares the melancholy and lifts the spirits.)

For reasons too numerous and too vague to recall, Epiphany, the Feast of the Three Kings, has always been a special day for me.  I love the story of the traveling Magi, the romance of gold, frankincense and myrrh, the charm of the Twelve Days of Christmas.  Most of all,  the is a time to recall that the tradition in my family was to allow the Christmas tree to reign in all its glory till January 6 when it usually met a fiery, but glorious, end in the fireplace.  And then were was the hallowed rite of positioning the Three Kings in their rightful place on the manger scene.

Though customs differ by culture, those that endured in my family are heavily influenced by the Irish heritage, so those are the stories into which I delved in anticipation of Epiphany 2012.  Now I have more good reasons to celebrate January 6

In Ireland Epiphany is celebrated as Little Christmas because, on the Julian calendar, January 6 was the Feast of the Nativity.  By tradition Little Christmas is also Women’s Christmas (nollaig na mBan).  On Women’s Day the men presumably took on the women’s chores while the women socialize, go shopping, enjoy small gifts from family members, or just draw a deep breath after the holiday preparations – and school vacations.  In his classic work, The Year in Ireland: A Calendar, Kevin Danaher notes that the term “Women’s Christmas” is explained by the assumption that “Christmas Day was marked by beef, and whiskey, men’s fare, while on Little Christmas Day the dainties preferred by women – cake, tea, wine, were more in evidence.”

One delightful story about Little Christmas is recalled by Bridget Haggerty writing in Irish Customs and Culture.  “This was a very special occasion when the women would gather for what we’d call a high tea – with wine!  There are some who say that water turns into wine on this day in honor of the Magi, others who maintain the miracle occurs because it’s the Anniversary of the Wedding Feast of Cana.”

In Ireland today Epiphany is a holy day of obligation, a day when Catholic faithful are required to attend Mass.  Many churches throughout Ireland feature Epiphany processions with carols and readings, particularly stories that celebrate the Three Wisemen from the East.  In some communities families are invited to share unwanted Christmas gifts to share with those less fortunate – a more generous form of what modern Americans practice as “re-gifting.”

And so my holiday decorations will remain in place for another day, the Maji will arrive at the stable, and I will ponder a reasonable strategy for instituting the worthy custom of Women’s Christmas on this side of the pond.

A DIY design for mapping wheelchair access

We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability. ― Stevie Wonder

And so we celebrate every move towards that goal. A recent Google update, accessible to all, can make life a bit easier for wheelchair users – and many others who will enjoy the most recent application for Wheelmap. http://wheelmap.org)

Wheelmap is an online interactive open system, based on the OpenStreet Map (www.openstreetmap.org) that identifies and rates wheelchair accessible sites ranging from restaurants to libraries. The system was created by a German-based charity, Socialhelden e.V., the brainchild of the foundation’s co-founder Raul Krauthausen.

The idea of Wheelmap is that anyone can contribute, mark and rate public places according to their wheelchair accessibility – ranging from no wheelchair access, to fairly accessible, to fully accessible. Everyone is free to post and rate yet-unlisted sites. The information is free to all and the system is easy to share.

Wheelmap.org is available as a web app and as an app for iPhone, Android and Windows 10.

Every open system invites creative improvement – which is where a team of Google employees stepped to the fore. Motivated by the famous Google policy that once allowed employees to use 20 percent of their time to make Google Maps reflect resources accessible for people with physical disabilities, a team of Google employees took on the challenge to couple the power of Wheelmap with the power of Google Maps.

For a year the team assessed the needs and possibilities so that today there’s an app for that! Wheelchair accessibility is now listed alongside other Google Map features such as traffic and store hours.

As with many applications originally designed for people with disabilities, the Google Maps info about wheelchair access can be a boon to anyone for whom high curbs can be a barrier to easy access.

Mark the wheelchair accessibility of a favorite hangout by clicking on https://wheelmap.org/map#/?zoom=16 to find the site, then click on the level of wheelchair access as you know it to be!