Local #hashtags: looking at the bigger picture

29 Nov

As if Twitter wasn’t confusing enough for most people! There’s grammar, etiquette and a sophistication that belies the 140 character world of Tweets, RTs, @s, DMs and those prevalent-yet-mysterious hashtags. #Hashtags!  What are they? Why use them?

In short: Hashtags create an organizing system among the 400 million+  tweets sent each day. Think of them as an decentralized and highly useful system in which millions of people can “file” information so that others looking for specific information can find it. Reasonable enough.

community building and local hashtags howard county

So what does this have to do with Howard County, or any community for that matter?

Most people’s “worlds” are very local. Despite interests in myriad hobbies, a fascination with international news or a focus on one’s professions humans live mostly in the world they themselves physically touch. And on another layer, the world that is touched/experienced by their social networks.

While involvement in local organizations, local politics and local affairs varies from person to person, local events are important to everyone at a physical survival level. And this is where Twitter and local hashtags becomes interesting and valuable.

using hashtags for emergency communications and community buildingIn terms of technology, I offer that Twitter provides one of the fastest ways to move specific information inside of loosely defined networks.

Most people living in Columbia, Maryland, when adding the hashtag #Columbia to a tweet, think that’s a local hashtag. Yet Click on #Columbia  in a Twitter search and compare that to #ColumbiaMD. You don’t even have to click: your brain can already see that the words and the search results will be very different when looked at through the stream of global tweets. The same is true for the ever-popular #HoCo hashtag. Around the time of homecoming, click on top images for #HoCo and note that suddenly #HoCo starts to mean homecoming dances and football games to teens throughout the U.S. (And there are a lot of teens on Twitter.)

This may not seem to be a big deal, right? So what if a hashtag we like to use in our community — #HoCo — gets flooded with #HoCo/homecoming-related tweets. Well, on one hand, yeah, so what. Yet what if in that same week there were a natural disaster in our neck of the woods and our community was accustomed to adding #HoCo to a Tweet to indicate Howard County, Maryland. Do you see the problem? We, as a community, would be sending info and tweets out that were meant for a local audience, yet our own messages would be most likely drowned out in a sea of teen’s tweets. And hashtags are all about organizing information inside on an unordered world, so what we do now, layers in and creates a system of intelligence and thoughtfulness that’s in place when we need it.


Think back on Hurricane Sandy. As the storm approached, most everyone was very interested in what was happening right outside their homes and in their communities, regardless of whether they gave a hoot the day prior about the Board of Education or a zoning change in the county. People live locally on a level of physical survival.  As the local Twitter stream and tweets about the hurricane started coming in, people were suddenly looking for immediate and hyper-local information: information more immediate than any newspaper could produce and more local than the TV stations could deliver. Enter, social media, and more specifically Twitter and local hashtags.

community building and local hashtagsBut in those tweets, well-intentioned as they were, the difference between a tweet with the hashtag #Hurricane, or #Sandy, or #MDSandy or #HoCoSandy suddenly made a huge difference as to whether someone’s locally focused tweet was reaching the best possible audience (those for whom the information was relevant). And while many a tweet — mine own among them — are often frivolous, information about a super storm, road closings, facility closings, floods and such have more importance and a wider potential audience tuning in.

If you look at the two screen captures of tweets in this blog post, you’ll see the difference a local hashtag created, shared and used can make. The top image is some results for #HoCoSandy. Here you see tweets from the Columbia Patch, County Executive Ulman, Luke (a reporter at the Columbia Flier) and and other local people. The other screen capture — the one for #HurricaneSandy — has tweets from all over the place; none of them local or locally relevant that I can discern.

A significant challenge with a community’s emergency preparedness (and a government’s and local institutions’) is that the time to prepare for an emergency is before it happens. Nothing new there, right? So how, as a community, do we prepare now to be ready to disseminate information wisely and thoughtfully when the need is more dire? I offer that the answer is found in the developing the discipline (and eventually the habit) of using local hashtags.

Use them for the mundane. For the unimportant. For the fun and engaging. #HoCoSushi, #HoCoMoms, #HoCoFood. But use them. Use them for news, updates and announcements: #HoCoSchools, #HoCoDeals, #HoCoVote. Be playful. Be serious. Be thoughtful. Be wise. But use them.

With the help and input of some friends, bloggers and the Fire Department, I’ve created a first round compilation of local hashtags to use. There are a LOT of them listed here. There’s no requirement to use them, of course. And perhaps (and probably) there are better hashtags to use in many of the cases here. Perhaps the community-wide list someday will be five times larger; perhaps it will be chopped by a third. I don’t know what’s best. I do know that local hashtags are important and will become increasingly important, and the time to figure out how to use them well and wisely is now.

Take a look! And try them out. If you’ve yet to do so, I encourage you to follow @HoCoBlogs on Twitter.


Greens, Eggs, No Ham recipe

17 Nov

This simple meal keeps me sustained. It’s my go-to meal/snack, morning, noon or night when I needed something quick, tasty and nutritious. Here’s the simplest version of what I make, and, as you can probably see, variations abound.

The eggs, like my photo orientation, are scrambled. Ingredients

  • 1 good egg
  • ½ cup of cooked rice
  • 1-2 cups of dark leafy greens
  • Nama Shoyu (the critical “secret” ingredient)
  • Olive oil, good stuff


  • Get your greens ready to go: cleaned, drained, de-stemmed and chopped
  • Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a skillet
  • Partially scramble an egg
  • Add in the rice and cook for a minute
  • Add the greens
  • Add a teaspoon or so of Nama Shoyu and cover the pan for a minute
  • Lightly toss all the ingredients in the pan
  • Serve … or pack for lunch 😉
nama shoyu at roots market in clarksville md

Nama Shoyu is available at Roots Market in Clarksville, MD.

Notes and variations

  • Nama Shoyu is not always that easy to find. In Howard County, Maryland, it can be purchased at Roots Market in Clarksville, and it’s a miracle ingredient.
  • It’s best to heat Nama Shoyu as little as possible.
  • Any greens will work: kale, broccoli greens, turnip or beet greens; the bitter of the greens works because it’s balanced by the emami taste of the shoya.
  • Splurge on organic, free range eggs; it’s worth it.
  • Get wild with your rices.
  • Sautee some scallions or hot peppers to change the flavor direction slightly.


Our GenX POTUS, Fiscal Cliffs and how the Boomers will save us all …

9 Nov

I’m not much of one for politics, elections, who-is-our-savior/who-is-the-devil stuff. I’ve tried. It’s just isn’t my thing. What does fascinate me is cycles, generations and cultural movements deep underneath what manifests and is given heed.

Photo from The Left Call

I will offer to anyone who whines about how the economy/ unemployment/ jobs creation/ budget woes etc were terrible under Obama’s administration, get over it. He didn’t create the problems. He can’t fix them back to the level they were at. And no one can. I’m not advocating that he’s been the Best of the Best president, but …

What I do understand is that we are in Society’s Winter (a 20ish-year period starting around 2006ish). We are in a Fourth Turning. I understand that Winter — just like in nature — is the time of contraction; it’s when things not hardy die; when there is less external activity; when there is little to harvest; and when resources and stores of wealth need to be watched and distributed with a different eye and a perspective that stems from the understanding that some seemingly harsh decisions will need to be made so that the majority of the tribe will survive til Spring (starting around 2025ish) when fecundity, new energy, and genuine hope for a bright future will once again uplift Society.

Photo from Web Design Ledger

I do believe that President Obama is the best leader for the times — even in his foibles and stumbles. He’s a GenXer, born in 1961 the first year of the GenX gen (1961-1981). And I believe that both parties, come 2016, better have GenX candidates primed and ready for the campaign. As with all generations and all cycles, each generation in midlife (42-63 years of age) has the understanding of the times and the skill sets to lead in that era.

Unfortunately, President Obama will have a very hard time doing what GenXers do best (getting to the root of the structural problem and fixing it). He needs for the Boomers to move into their rightful and appropriate role as our Society’s elders. And in doing so, for them to have their “Ah-hah” moment, first in small clumpings, then as a national calling and a moral rectitude few in their generation will rally against.

What is this “ah-hah moment” you might wonder?

The Boomer “ah-hah moment” is to recognize that they are now the senior generation. (Yes, there are still millions of Silent Gen living, but it is the Boomers that are redefining what it is to be Society’s Elders.) And in recognizing that they are the senior generation, their mortality and legacy will start to hound them with a piercing that they had not previously understood. In that hounding, they will realize that they are unwilling as a generation to leave to the Millennials (never mind the GenXers; they neither need nor expect governmental help) the burdensome debt of caring for them. Nor will Boomers accept a legacy that provides little economic hope for their beloved Millennials (a gen born 1982-2004ish).

And what will the Boomers do?

They will do what no government can do without their collective permission (nay, leadership!) as a generation. They will begin to redefine what is due to them. They will begin to extoll the virtues of wisdom that can only be imparted by elders and a life lived morally and well. They will begin to decry and call wrong the folly of science and medicine to thwart their Makers’ Will by trying to extend life beyond what is natural and spiritually right. They will redefine what they expect in the form of medical care and Medicaid, transforming the conversation from the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in healthcare to save but a life to a conversation around meditation, reflective prayer, and maybe how organic carrot soup with a wee bit of ginger will help with their bodies’ circulation so that they can better sit in their meditative and prayerful poses.

They will demand the right to a natural death … and government support for their yoga instruction at their holistic retreat centers while they come to terms with their diabetes, their Reiki sessions versus chemotherapy, and acupuncture treatments along with physical therapy and drugs post-stroke. They will demand of their well-to-do generational brethren that they opt out of Social Security and other benefits. And they will do what no politician or political party can do: they will change the conversation around “entitlements” by putting their own needs front and center in the conversation and doing the thing their generation will yet learn how to do: COMPROMISE.  

But they have to get there themselves. As a generation that is now 69 on the top end (born 1943-1960), the Boomers (the Prophet generation in generational theory) don’t know is that their archetype’s greatest contribution to Society comes not in their youth and their Peace, Love and Rock-n-Roll days, but in their elderhood, when they are known in each generational cycle as The Grey Wolves, able to take their role as elder statesmen (and -women) in a time of Crisis.

Calling it: Boomers will move from their current reputation of fueling a Red State/Blue State nation divided over arguments stemming from their young adulthood values wars into a mature generation that will call ONE PATH the right path forward. And that path will have much to do with making sure that Millennials have the chance for a future. While I could be wrong, I would say the area of entitlements is the area where this generation can — and most likely will — leave much of its legacy.

Time will tell.

And, um, there isn’t much time left.

For those who believe history/time/culture change/tech is moving faster than ever …

1 Oct

Is History Moving Faster? Great piece by Neil Howe, generational master in the super-duo Neil and Howe.

Let’s consider, for a moment, the life experiences of the peers of Dwight D. Eisenhower, born 1890.  When he was a child, kings and queens still ruled Europe, you needed to know Morse Code to communicate faster than a horse could run, and (in fact) horses were the only mode of ordinary street transport, even in the largest cities (the removal of manure being a huge municipal challenge); children routinely died from bacterial infections; and Lord Kelvin, one of the greatest scientists of that age, declared that “aeronautical travel” was impossible.  Now let’s fast-forward to Eisenhower at age 69, in 1959, during his second presidential term.  He was inside in a Boeing 707 (the first “Air Force One”) dictating memos on the deployment of hydrogen bombs, sugar-cube vaccines for polio, and plans to put a “man on the moon” (a plan later spelled out by Jack Kennedy and executed on time by LBJ), while flying at 35,000 feet over a nation whose vast, affluent, home-owning, car-driving, union card-holding middle class would have been utterly inconceivable in the presidency of William McKinley (or during the twilight years of Queen Victoria).  Oh, and did I forget to mention that he lived through two world wars and the establishment of two totalitarian states (USSR and PRC), all responsible for the slaughter, deportation, and migration of countless tens of millions—and the rise of a family of liberal and democratic “developed economies” responsible for the affluence of hundreds of millions.

And later …

In the Fourth Turning, we point out that the western world (especially since the Reformation) has adopted a uniquely linear view of history in which practically every generation believes it just happens to be experiencing the apocalyptic inflection point in world history, in which humanity is about to be completely transformed either morally or technologically.  And to buttress such conviction, we try so very hard to persuade ourselves, contrary to fact, that our grandparents and our earlier ancestors have lived through a history in which very little happened.  Let us please rid ourselves of this modernist hubris.


20 Sep

I do believe, that in each of us — and in the human experience — is hardwired the joy of giving. And receiving.

Giving is an interesting thing in that in order for a giver to experience giving, there must be a receiver who experiences receiving. At one end of the spectrum, the giving transaction is specific, known and simultaneous, e.g. I give a friend coming down a ladder a hand to help steady herself. At another end, giving is general, unknown and diffused: I write a blog post, someone looks at a subject from a different angle than they’d previously seen, and their own thinking shifts a fraction of a fraction of a degree. I don’t need to know that such a gift was received. It’s diffused, unknown what I’ve given. There is no knowledge or need that anyone has taken what is offered.

Receiving is also an interesting concept. In order to receive, there must be 1) desire for the thing being offered and 2) capacity to receive it. If someone is offering a tasty cold beverage on a hot and dusty day, and I’m thirsty and have a cup, that’s awesome. If they want to give me 20 ounces but I only want 8, and they insist that I take all 20 in order to get the 8; that’s not so great.

In other words — and obviously — giving requires balance with receiving. Yet it’s not so clean and easy in many situations. There’s expectation, need, want, guilt, manipulation and a host of other less-than-wholesome emotions that attach themselves with ease to many transactions between people. Gifts that aren’t wanted. Receiving that has layers of expectation about what is owed built in. Greater-than-thou-ness around giving, but refusal to receive (as if that is a sin). Folks got all kinds of messed-up-ness around giving and receiving. And I can count myself among the many who’ve had challenges here.

One of the aspects of Burning Man that I ever so enjoy is the principle of gifting. 50,000 people co-creare an environment in which giving and receiving is part and parcel of the day. There are two things for sale at Burning Man: 1) ice and 2) coffee (well, and tea).  Beyond that it’s very much about communal effort, radical self-reliance and gifting: Gifting, as in I give you this thing-service-smile with no strings attached, which is distinctly and specifically different than bartering, as in you and I will find a balance point in which what I give, what I receive, what you give, what you receive will be considered equal and fair by both of us, or.else.no.deal.

Imagine, a week in a city in which all transactions are gifts. And the gifting at Burning Man is extensive, robust, luxurious, kind, useful, functional, abundant, artistic, sweet and loads more. My camp, The More Carrots, gifts a farmers market replete with fresh produce, ready-to-eat wholesome goodness and bicycle-powered smoothies. Others provide live music, art cars, solar power, pickle martinis, foot soaks, tours of well-designed kitchens, movies, shade, bike repair … you name it. Volunteers (people outside our camp of 29) helped with our camp build, at our market, making dinner.

Individually, I was gifted jewelry, happy/relaxing-making things, a shower, lots of food, lotions and massages, an application of lip balm, a fiercely kind guide to get me out of the camp (where I was the leader and asked many a question) so that we could explore art on my birthday, and much more.

I gave, too: moisturizing eye drops to people sitting near me at a bar on a dusty day, fresh cut and cold orange slices, a foot massage, a hug, tissues, counsel, directions to the porta-potties down the way. I set up my “refreshing drink” stand on the dustiest of dusty afternoons and offered — in the company of a dear and engaging friend — a cup of refreshment and a bit of TLC for people to move on to their next adventure or destination.

And, of course, I received that which was offered communally: art projects, live music, respite from the sun in some camp or another’s shade structures, and the specific offerings of the many camps I visited and hung out at: the perfect drink  at Golden Cafe on a hot afternoon, a view of the burn from the top of the French Quarter, a ride on Gon Kirin, There’s a flow and rhythm when giving underlies the experience.

Yet gifting, twisted or misunderstood, can create an expectation in which the unguided believe that need=result or desire=obligation. Boo on that.

I’d like to tell a short story of one experience that jarred me momentarily and reminded me of how important it is with any community to help the newly arrived understand the principles and guiding values that make a place/group of people attractive and desirous to the new-comer in the first place. This story is around the complexity and simplicity of the principle of gifting at Burning Man.

Here goes …

I was out one night at a bar called Wanted. It was a Wild West on the Moon-like sort of place, deeper out and away from “the city” … definitely inside the party scene part of “town.” Waiting for a friend to get us a drink at the bar (yes, of course, it was gifted and free), I was dancing when a young man pointed to my Camelback mouthpiece and then to himself; then he made the universal drinking sign of tipping his head back, hands up to his lips as if holding a cup.

Huuunnnhhh!? If there was a movie soundtrack, that would have been the moment you’d heard the screech of a record needle sliding wildly across a record. I stopped and stared at him.

“You’re a virgin, aren’t you?” I inquired. Knowing the answer.

“Yes,” he responded.

“Where’s your water?” I asked him.

Mind you, this was only about 10 pm in the evening, very early for playa time. We were far, far away from the rest of the city and there was a full-on, night-long, fierce dust storm raging.

“Oh, I left it back at camp,” he said, throwing his head back as if this was funny.

“You need your water,” I stated. “You should go back to camp and get some water.”

“I don’t understand why you can’t give me some of yours,” he pleaded. “You have plenty to share.”

I was not amused. Aghast might be a better word to describe how I was feeling.

“You’re asking me to share my water with you? In a desert?” I said. “… When you didn’t pack any of your own?”

He repeated his point about how he didn’t understand why I wouldn’t share with him when I clearly had what he wanted. I did not feel like lecturing him on the 10 principles. Instead, I poured into the lid of a water bottle (an ounce, two at the most) and gave that to him to sip. I encouraged him to see if he could get ice in his drinks tonight and more specifically, suggested he go back to his camp and get his own water.

His journey, his experience … those are his memories to take or forget. For me, It made me pensive about Burning Man, the magic of gifting and how the “magic” happens when people are also prepared (radical self-reliance). Had my gift that night been water, or perhaps had we spoken for awhile, connected, laughed and then he’d asked, I might have been more generous. But my first interaction with him was Gimme. And Gimme and Gifting, they aren’t in the same ball park.

I do believe that each and all of us, whether it’s with a charity, a homeless person, a friend in need, or a stranger whose path we cross … we all intuitively assess whether the situation is one of gifting and receiving or whether there’s a Gimme underneath.

Giving and receiving, the transaction, is a deeply human experience, one that fills and fulfills both the giver and receiver. Gimme, on the other hand, leaves, I believe, both parties emptier than when they started.

May your cup runneth over … All ways. Always. 

On dust

16 Sep

There is much talk of dust at, about and around Burning Man. As there should be. Burning Man and dust go hand in hand. But note the word; it’s “dust,” not “dirt.” Dust, not sand.

When I was still a virgin and people would speak to me of this dust, I could only think of airborne dirt, fine particles. I had no idea what they meant. I couldn’t. I hadn’t been there. Yet on my first day on the playa, exhausted beyond measure from preparations that taxed me, a night-long drive that stretched me and a full-day of camp build — in a dust storm — that had me pushing beyond limits I didn’t know I had, I sat in my tent for a few minutes, breathed in the air and said to myself and the place, “I get it.”

What I got was the ancient memory associated with a “dust” formed from a dry  seabed. I got the memory of a place and time in which floating in the sea, in some form or another, was my existence … “my,” of course, being a rather difficult word to use as Jessie Newburn, born August 28, 1963, wasn’t there, per se. Yet I was. Some part of some part of me was. And I — along with everyone else who goes to Burning Man — feels it at some level. We give it different words and ascribe it different meanings. We try to wrap our minds around it and explain it someone who hasn’t been there; and our paths and means are as individual as the people who attend. Yet, we all come to a conclusion and greet each other by saying, “Welcome home.” 


In the most alien of places. A place with not a life form on it. Where the alkalinity of the “soil” can burn you. Where the days are hotter than hot; and the nights, colder than cold. Where dust storms transform the landscape and space into an even more alien and inhospitable environment, this place we call home feels more human, more humane, more civil, more natural, more right, balanced, fluid, loving, expansive, accepting, receiving and able than any other place or space I’ve known.

The dust: once sea water; turned to “soil’ (earth), whipped into the air, met by Burners who bring the most exquisite fire art with both metal and wood at its base; we experience the elements in an exotic and alien, yet somehow utterly natural and right way: water, earth, air and fire. Smell triggers memories, and the ancient sea bed, made of countless now-dead sea beings and life, enters our airways through our nose and reminds us of what we already know.

Today, I picked up the boxes I’d shipped out on the DC container to Burning Man. As I approached the container and items being unloaded, I took a deep breath and let my hands lovingly brush across dusty boxes and equipment. The touch, the sensation, the smell! The dust. The dust. The dust. The dust.

One cute kid at a time …

8 Jul

I remember the first time I gave money to a large organization. I was happy I did it. I benefited from their do-gooded-ness, and even though my own finances were rather tight at the time, I’d decided this org was one I wanted to help fund.

I also remember how disheartening it was to get mailing after mailing from them, soliciting more and more money. At one point, I wondered how much of my money went to actual programming and how much was funneled back into the fundraising arm of the org.

I notice that I’m more interested in opportunities where my contribution can be experienced and valued more specifically. As such, it’s been very easy for me to support Tapulanga Foundation, a small school (and community organization) in a rural village in the Philippines. The foundation is also run by a friend, Robin Abello, and his sister Mimic, who is on-site at the school. For those of you who know hocoblogs.com, Robin is my “co” in this venture.

If this type of donation appeals to you and/or you wish to express your appreciation for hocoblogs and the community created around it, I encourage you to check out how you can support Tapulanga Foundation.

Social media, generations, institutions and power change

18 Apr

An impromptu interview — and how I met @GeoGeller — in 2007 at a diner in Baltimore where Jeff Pulver was hosting a breakfast party. Talking about social media, generations, institutions and power change.

and then a bit here, with @SpiralEyes


Millennials and the Occupy movement

20 Mar

I started off answering a quick Q someone posted on my Facebook page this morning and ended up writing this piece, below, about generational dynamics and the Occupy movement.

The Millennials, born 1982-2004ish and the primary oomph behind the ‘Occupy’ movement, are a “Common Man” gen. Their *civil rights* movement is for the right to have a middle-class existence. The take-to-the-streets thing isn’t really their schtick because they’re not true protestors and they neither hate nor distrust The Man, organizations, or government.


What may help in understanding this phenomenon, is to take the Occupy movement as a statement about the Millennials’ life-long direction and values: in their world view, the needs of the many (“their” many for their generation) outweigh the needs of the few (the environment co-created by GenX orientation to risk, markets and gambling + Boomer ruthlessness and turf battles + Silent Gen glee about market deregulation).

Add it all up and what you have is the widest spread of wealth since the post-War era and a lot of unstability and uncertainty. Millennials are about stepped progression, earned rank and the Average Joe. The Occupy movement, while by no means the exclusion of Millennial interest, was energized by them and by Society’s willingness to consider the future of the gen ascending into young adulthood worthy of attention (not something GenXers experienced at the same age).

The Occupy movement was perceived of as a lot of whining to some GenX, Boomers and Silent gen people, and rightly so, because there was a lot of whining. Millennials have no historical frame of reference to understand that the quality of life they knew as children — parents churning out frequent $20 expenditures on them as though $20 was a quarter or a buck, the massive redirection of govt money for education and children’s programming from which they benefitted, and an overall rise in what was considered standard even for the poorer among us (TVs, computers, cel phones, new clothes each year) — that all of these things they’ve grown up to consider “their right” to have actually came from the environment they now decry and call wrong.

Expect more from Millennials of this orientation toward *The Rights of the Common Man,” as Millennials in their need to create a world that matches their world view do not turn to the streets and sewers to find their path forward (that would be GenX and their Mad-Max-the-world-is-broken view). No, Millennials smile, keep an upbeat attitude and look at adults-institutions-governments with a calm, rightful expectancy of Society’s redirection of money, interest, laws and programs that make their experience of the world match their values.

And it’s all good, for cycles are cycles and corrections need to happen lest a trend become entrenched and Society becomes stuck.

Clean-cut Burners, fuzzy normals and blinkies everywhere

15 Feb

This post will mean little to one who is not a Burner (or raver, per Mona). I’m going to make a claim about something I’ve been seeing trending and how it aligns with generations. I’d guess that in three to five  years, my claims today will seem then like, “duh, yeah, of course … like, everyone could see that coming,” but I’ll say them anyway.

Here goes:

The edge-y, Mad-Max, raver-hippie, sparkle-pony, dust-loving extremeness of the Burning Man community’s dress will chill. And not just chill, but it will become chic to wear in the desert a suit, a cocktail dress, a classic, elegant, even preppy bit of attire. The sparkle ponies will always be cute and sexy. There will always be hippies who appear not to have showered in ages. And Burning Man will always attract artistic, awesome people who live big, create the most awesome costumes, and do what needs to be done to survive and thrive for a week in the moon dessert storms that so define and make Burning Man at Black Rock City, Nev., the place that it is.

But the stuff of which Burning Man fashion has been so quirkily specific — the furry boots, the neon pink furry animal-like hats, the faux fur endlessly covering ones body — this has started to move mainstream, and thus Burners will need to redefine Burner fashion, lest they look like the vacuous 11-year-old I saw the other weekend sporting major Burnerific faux fur fashions. How not hip to be like everyone else.

Oh, (she catches herself as she writes.) Wait, I’m thinking like a GenXer preferring the edge vs the center. Never mind, if Millennials in their same-sameness (which they don’t see  about themselves but which all other generations do) bring the fur en masse, it will be, indeed, en masse, and worn without meaning except to be like their generational brethren. Again, to my point: the fur will lose its meaning at Burning Man. And being preppy and clean cut in the desert will ride on the wings of the younger GenXers wishing to be different (not like the older grungier GenXers) and leaning toward  and meeting the style leaders of the Millennials with their fresh clean-cut, upbeat and redefined metro preppy attire.

And while Burning Man will get a cleaner, sharper look, the suburbs will be filled with pink-faux-fur wearing teens and moms.

Black Rock City, where the Burning Man festival is held, will find its streets lined increasingly each year with more and more clean cut, urban-leaning young folk. Not hipsters: for Millennials are not hipsters; they don’t need to try to BE anything. By virtue of their peer focus, they choose, and choose en masse, making all of them the same at once; distinction by difference is not their game; distinction by earned rank is.

And what of blinkies? These array of lights-lights-lights everywhere on bodies, bikes, art cars and more that are not just found but required at Burning Man lest one be called a “dark tard” and put oneself and others in danger of injury.

Blinkies will be everywhere. The cultural mood will shift, and more swiftly than you can imagine. It is winter, my dears: society’s winter, and a 20-year phase of an 80-(or so)-year cycle. We need lights in winter, as the days are short, the nights are long and our part of the earth is further from the warming sun.

In less than five years, we will see LED lights all over. Nary a bike will be ridden at night without the rider (the person) and the bike (the vehicle) bedecked in LED lights. And each unique. Backpacks for children (and adults) will have built-in LEDs. Clothing will have lights. City-scaping (and even the faux pastural suburban environments) will have streets, parks and public areas lit with colorful LEDs. And it will all seem natural and right, and it will be, for cycles are cycles and they can be ignored, but they cannot be stopped.

It’s already happening in shoes for little ones, these blinkies. Of course, these litte ones are our Homeland gen children, suffocated by the encroaching fear their parents carry to raise their children in Winter. GenX parents were themselves the children of Summer, neglected in an era of adult self-indulgence, so they swing in the other direction as parents, as do all genarations. Our Homelanders will have no choice, for they are the generation that silently receives this suffocating parenting of their stealth-fighter GenX parents. But again, this will be right and timely. As we protect our Homelander children with lights so that they can be watched with fierce diligence by their parents, these same lights will make young Millennials in cities safer, and the street-scaping will make us all want to be out more, close to home and our kin and country people. The lights will call us out, making it safe to leave the McMansions and lonelier days of Bowling Alone.

And so, I believe, it will be: Metro preppy Burners (trust me: the Burners will cry out and call me wrong); Burner-ific faux-fur-covered suburbanites and blinkie LED lights everywhere. I could always be wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time. Then again, I could be more right than you could possible even foresee now.

Time will tell.


A respectable wedding date

7 Feb

I wrote an entire post with the back story about how I came to do this, but WordPress zonked and no draft was saved. So back-stories aside, here is what I posted on Craig’s List today (the DC and Balt sites). A respectable wedding date.

UPDATE: My post got flagged and taken down from Craig’s List. The text I wrote follows the screen capture below. Read on.

A respectable wedding date

Title:(strictly platonic) A respectable wedding date – w4m

I’m looking to increase my social network in the DC and Baltimore areas. Last year, I was given a great project and New Year’s goal by a married farmer friend of mine: ATTEND TOP-TIER WEDDINGS as a date for men who aren’t looking to date, but need a date. I was, admittedly, a chicken, but I am going to do it this year. So, if you find yourself invited to a wedding or two in the DC-Balt area and need a respectable date, I may be just what you need.

Here’s what I need: The weddings need to be first-to-first, or at least the first wedding for the bride. The younger the bride, the better. The people getting married need to be of families in the higher echelons of government, business and philanthropy in this area.

And I need for you to be a gentleman.

I’ll be a lady. I can hold a conversation … and my alcohol. I can be charming, a good date and appropriately dressed. I’ve been told, in so many words, that I wear my 48 years well. I have a more-than-reasonable job, interesting hobbies and a life I enjoy living. Whatever your reasons, if you need a date for a top-tier wedding in the area, are in the 44-54 age range and you’re buying the wedding gift :-), consider inviting me as your “+one.”

The photo I’m attaching is recent, from a costume-heavy “Santa” event in DC. I was Ambassador Claus.

Occupy Baltimore

25 Jan

Monday night I attended a BMoreSmart event (a tech event) at which Rico Singleton, CIO of Baltimore City, was the key speaker. Among the many things he addressed that night, developing a relationship with the local tech community was key. He wants to/needs to be able to hire local people for many (mostly) coding and development projects the city needs done but doesn’t have the staff to do.

This is, of course, complex.

The city isn’t quite set up for this type of working relationship. Much is yet to be done to work out the kinks of that system.

The city isn’t really in the position to pay the appropriate market rate for the volume and caliber of work that needs to be done.

The sexy-shiny-social-public-facing apps are great, but it’s often the onerous, less-glam projects that really need doing.

The city isn’t set up to pay someone a portion of their fee and allow them then to own the code/product they create (so that they can sell it to others).

And, perhaps most importantly, the city lacks the talent to fill the jobs need in the whole city. (Don’t scream, you geeks. He wasn’t saying that there isn’t tons of talent and a great tech community; rather, that the volume of work to be done and the people able to do it just doesn’t exist at this time.)

There’s the Apps for Democracy, Code for America and a slew of other choices, but those projects and programs tend to be about sexy subjects/apps and such.

One of the speakers showed a website he’d developed on vacant properties in Baltimore. It was quite cool. And the data, well, it was quite fascinating.

I heard talk of Mayor SRB and her plan to bring — what is it? — 10,000 families to Baltimore in x years? And then I had a funny thought: funny, in that I laughed to see pieces of a puzzle come together.

“Occupy Baltimore!” was what I heard.

Yes, Occupy Baltimore.

Here’s a vision to try on in your head. I kind of like the way it is in mine.

Imagine the city were able to create a good system wherein it had a robust this-is-what-we-need procedure for short-term, specific tech projects. Imagine if decided to pay but a pittance for (probably, though not exclusively) young developers to work on these projects for below market rate. Imagine that the city would own the code, as their structured mindset so requires them to do so now if they pay for development.

Imagine that rather than being paid fully in cash for wages, or in code developed that they could resell, instead these coders were paid in Occupy Baltimore “currency:” in cash specifically and only toward vacant Baltimore housing. I’ll make up some numbers, but let’s say a project was worth $10,000 in a legitimate market, but the city only had $2,500 to pay for it. The person who took that job could get $2500 in cash and, say, for example’s sake, $15,000 in Occupy Baltimore currency. Maybe they took on another project, or worked with a friend or two to pool their Occupy Baltimore bucks. Who knows? Before a year could be out, a few friends could pool together to rebuild a vacant home.

Now, it might behoove the city to put these (mostly) young coders in group housing during there earn-less-than-market-rate days, assuming they were to work a minimum number of hours a week or month. It would need to be good housing. Dormitory grown up housing. Preferably near a fun area of Baltimore so they’d feel more connected to the city. These are Millennials of which we speak, and their long-cycle cultural legacy is affluence, technology and culture. They want all that and more, and adults do well to give it to them in childhood. Now that they are in young adulthood, we need to think differently about how to make as much as possible free for them. Not free as in hand-out free, but as in trade-energy-and-vitality-for-free. That kind of free.

I’m sure there are a 1,001 problems with this vision. And a 1,001 reasons why it’s perfect and right.

It’s one thing for a politician to say, “I’m gonna” (ref the State of the Union tonight and any other candidate on the campaign trail). It’s another thing to think differently and find solutions that are right for the times.

And the banks. Remember the banks, Wall Street, investment firms? Well, here’s a chance for the banks to redeem themselves; I’m sure they can work out some financing with the vacant properties, the city’s Occupy Baltimore bucks and some lovely form of a new housing program for young Millennials moving into city’s to re-energize them and bring brightness. Imagine the possibilities for bank’s (local ones especially) to transform themselves before the new generation of customers by doing right … for THEIR generation. To give them hope and possibility.

With Baltimore’s CIO, Rico Singleton, thinking in the direction he is thinking to get more coders who will do big work for little money, with Mayor SRB thinking in the 10K More Families direction she is thinking, with the insane vacancies in Baltimore (what, isn’t Baltimore the only major city in the last couple of decades to have actually lost population?), with shamed financial institutions needing a really good (and legitimate) win, with the massive and can’t-be-fought cycles of generational shifts and the opportunities for working with young Millennials at hand, my sense is Baltimore may just be the city perfectly positioned to make the OCCUPY movement actually mean something.

Occupy Baltimore!

Young geeks, if not you, then who. If not know, then when.


No, I didn’t edit or proofread this post. It is what it is.

I saw it in my dreams

10 Dec

I had a dream the other night: a dream in which I was walking through a city —  DC, presumably, as that’s what it felt like. Except I saw it in the future when the city had become (as all are now) more residential, filled with hip GenXers and bright-eyed, collegial Millenials. A city alive, vibrant, re-energized and with all the extra zing, color and shapes that are possible in dreams.

In my dream, there was a particular image that struck me, resonated. It was an apartment building: a particular type of apartment building. The apartment was a high-end, positioned in the best of the best spots in the city. Night time. Streets filled with happy people. A good feeling in the air.

This particular apartment building wasn’t just any building where any-ol’-anyone could rent. It was marked SATURN, and in this building lived only and exclusively employees of Saturn. The city was filled with such buildings: amenity-rich, decked-out and top-of-the-line places designed specifically for the employees of a particular company. In this future I saw, this type of apartment buildings had become “the thing.” They had become a part of the economy, the job market, a recruiting tool.

See, rather than providing salaries that put just cash (lovely as it is) into the pockets of employees, companies had crafted worlds in which their employees were treated as special, where they were protected and bathed in the focused affluence and comfort of their employers who held these employees as very dear.

Think about it from a generational lens: the generation of Millennial young adults was brought into the world during a surge of “Baby on Board” stickers announcing their parents’ precious cargo; they were lovingly watched over in monitored playgroups as toddlers; resources for education surged during their years in elementary, then middle and high school; playgrounds were made safer; programming for kids exploded as an industry and, in general, the world of adults turned attention, time, money and effort toward ensuring that this particular generation would not be like the one that preceded it.

Why would it be any different when they are the dominant generation in young adulthood? It won’t be. Their young adulthood years will be a continuation of the focus and care of adults and institutions, and that is how the cycle goes.

17 pages

19 Nov

17 pages. That’s it. A mere 17 pages. Oh, but in these 17 pages, the things will you learn. Generations, Fourth Turning, cultural moods, Millennials’ rallying cry toward the right to a middle class … and how to position yourself (your company, your brand, your family, your finances) to navigate the everything-can-turn-on-a-dime era known as The Fourth Turning.



Horizontal filing and an uplifting solution

24 Jul

I’m a horizontal filer.

The vertical filers, who assume their way is right because office products are made primarily to support their style, call us pilers, or stackers, or maybe even slobs. Well, they can call me and my kindwhat they want, but I am what I am, I know others who share similar thinking, and I’ve learned to work with my strengths and weaknesses. What I don’t have are products that work well for me.

I’m hoping someone will come across this blog, read the idea here and either point me to where I can buy the item I need, or perhaps they can figure out how to make it and get it to market. So here’s the quick flash idea I just had: The idea is to have a free-standing pole that has (in the right range of what is reachable while sitting or standing) trays accommodating 8.5 x 11+ paper horizontally and say 3/4″ high. The trays would, of course, be perpendicular to the pole and they would rotate around the pole, or at least partially. The intent would be that a tray could have a project label or file label on it that is visible from a sitting or standing position, but the tray could rotate out of the ordered stack so that the contents (the pile) could be accessed and then returned to the neat, tidy storage area.

Sigh. Not sure if that verbal description works. Basically the idea is to allow for piles, create a vertical stack and allow each pile to be pulled out and accessed as needed. It’d probably be useful to have different options for the actual tray height and then some adjustment option  for creating space between stacked trays.

The problem with all the horizontal filing systems currently  on the market is that they assume a person wants to file away a horizontal pile. But I know I just want to PUT a horizontal file somewhere until I need it again. The products for horizontal filing misunderstand the basic and initial need of Our Kind.

I need a product engineer! Herman Miller (and crew), can you hear me now?


Are Millennials less religious than other gens?

12 Jul

This morning I was reading a Boomer’s blog post about religion, churches and his view of generational shifts in “religiosity” (not sure if I made up that word). He wrote, “It is not uncommon to hear that the generation in their 20’s and 30’s are agnostic or atheist.”

My response through the lens of applied generational theory:

Millennials, those in the 7-ish to 29-y.o. range in 2011, are raised in a culture influenced mostly by Boomer values. Boomers orient as a generation toward vision, values and religion. It shouldn’t be too surprising then that if you’re raised by a generation that leans one way, that you lean the OTHER way. It’s not that Millennials are mostly agnostic; it’s that they’re less curious about their internal and spiritual worlds and more curious about the external and physical world. Boomers, who grow up in a structured and well-built world as children, in young adulthood created a cultural change to focus on the meaning and purpose (of everything!).

So as Millennials now define young adulthood, what do we see? Millennials grow up in a values-fixated world, and in young adulthood, bring a focus back to the physical world and the importance of structure.

GenXers, in between both, correct the excesses of a values-fixated world and lead the shift toward a world where systems function better, thus allowing the Millennials a platform upon which they can bring their “Hero Energy” into society and actually use it!
The Silent/Homelanders are another story for another day.

So I offer this to the Boomer who looks at Millennials and sees them, along with his generational cohorts, as more agnostic and atheist: generations always see other generations through their own filters. (Right? Makes sense.) Imagine what the Boomers’ values-fixation and generational unwillingness to define as important the care of the physical world, e.g. roads, bridges, public parks, IT systems, looks like to Millennials who are raring to go, raised for their role as Heroes and wanting very much to live in a world that is safe, gleaming and structured. Then let’s talk about which generation is more this and less that. Being more religious or more agnostic is not a good-er or badder (I might have just made up two more words) thing. It’s a cycle and a rhythm that happens naturally to correct excesses, provide what’s needed now and create the path for a future that’s coming. That’s what generations do; they balance each other, allowing for growth, renewal and evolution.

If it be your will

20 Jun

In W, of all places, I heard of this singer: Antony and the Johnsons. The photo shown in W and the opening line of the article had me curious instantly. Yeah for YouTube and the interwebs, I was able to find and listen to his music on the spot. (I’m hooked!) Now, while I don’t know the exquisite details of Antony’s biology or chromosonal make-up, my guess is Antony is a hermaphrodite. Talk about taking the gift of life and making it an exquisite prayer of gratitude and development! What an interesting and beautiful voice.

Sing, Antony, sing! Here’s Antony and the Johnsons singing, “If it be your will.”

And Leonard Cohen, singing his version.


A beautiful citizen uprising

12 May

“A beautiful citizen uprising!” Apparently, that’s what I said — and there’s video to prove it.

One of the most excellent regional unconferences (imo) is Transparency Camp, put on by the Sunlight Foundation. This year, I was interviewed as one of the participants, and my few moments of fame open and close the video.

Kate, Zell and a wedding dress

1 May

Wedding gown design, Rosellen Howell, 1946

I know it’s not an exact match, but I see some similarities. In 1946, my aunt, Rosellen Howell (whom, growing up, I called Aunt Zellie), headed to New York City at the ripe age of seventeen, where she then studied fashion design. Here’s a wedding dress design from her collection.

And here is Kate Middleton (the newest princess) and her dress:

Why are Deborah and Janet so successful?

30 Apr

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about the cyclical naming of babies and how generations and Turnings (per Strauss and Howe) impacts popular baby names. A few days ago this earlier post came to mind when I came across an article about the most popular baby girls’ names in 2009. (These would be the Homeland generation: the generation that shares the same archetype as the Silent generation, born 1924-1942.)

Check this out. Notice how the names sound to your ears and the image that you have with the personality that would match such a name.

Design by Rosellen Howell, 1946

  1. Isabella
  2. Emma
  3. Olivia
  4. Ava
  5. Sophia
  6. Madison
  7. Chloe
  8. Abigail
  9. Emily
  10. Addison
  11. Ella
  12. Lilly
  13. Mia
  14. Alexis
  15. Grace

Then look at the most popular female names of 1999, when Millennials were winding down but still Millennials. More Glamour Girl (my child is special) names. Listen to how the names sound and the personality you’d associate — sight unseen — with such a name.

  1. Emily
  2. Sarah
  3. Brianna
  4. Samantha
  5. Hailey
  6. Ashley
  7. Kaitlyn
  8. Madison
  9. Hannah
  10. Alexis
  11. Jessica
  12. Alyssa
  13. Abigail
  14. Kayla
  15. Megan


Fast Company has an article based on Linkedin data in which it claims the best names to name your baby and future CEO. In my eyes, this article would be much more valuable were the author and the good people at Linkedin to have given generational theory its due. The article (per Linkedin’s data) concludes the most-likely-to-be-CEO female’s names are —

Design by Rosellen Howell, 1946

  1. Deborah
  2. Sally
  3. Debra
  4. Cynthia
  5. Carolyn
  6. Pamela
  7. Ann
  8. Cheryl
  9. Linda
  10. Janet

Hmmm, let’s see. Most female (not male) CEOs are in their 50s. So what if we go back and find the most popular female baby names in 1959. (These would be the tail-end of Boomers.) There’s some correlation between popular names for baby girls some 50+ years ago and the more-common names of 50-something female CEOs today. Duh.

  1. Mary
  2. Susan
  3. Linda
  4. Karen
  5. Donna
  6. Patricia
  7. Debra
  8. Cynthia
  9. Deborah
  10. Lisa
  11. Barbara
  12. Pamela
  13. Sandra
  14. Nancy
  15. Kathy

And, not to leave the GenXers out of the conversation, I looked at the top female baby names in 1971 (GenXers are born 1961-1981, so this is the mid-point in the generation).

  1. Jennifer
  2. Michelle
  3. Lisa
  4. Kimberly
  5. Amy
  6. Angela
  7. Melissa
  8. Tammy
  9. Mary
  10. Julie
  11. Stephanie
  12. Heather
  13. Tracy
  14. Dawn
  15. Karen

Cyclical time. Cultural turnings. Rising trends and fading fashions. These things are part of the experience here on this lovely planet. Always there is something being born, something rising up, something being solid and powerful and something fading and moving toward death. To my mind, and as I continue to study generational theory, I find the (approximately) 20-year turnings that occur each time a new generation moves into young adulthood, one of the more compelling, informative and insightful bodies of work.

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