Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Christians and the Pagans

"But now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning." — Dar Williams, The Christians and the Pagans

Don't know the song? Click here!

It's a silly line from a cutsey folk song, but think about it. The line is describing one of the rare times in human history where people with different opinions can sit down and talk with each other without calling for blood. It's unfortunate that some areas of the world like Israel and the Gaza Strip can't do this right now, that tensions are too high. But the simple fact is that we're in a more tolerant age than we ever have been before.

The message of the song focuses on tolerance. Essentially, that family, friendshp, and connecting is more important than any strongly held religious belief. Yes, many of us disagree about religion, sometimes very vehemently, but what it comes down to is everybody wants to be able to live a good life and provide for their families.

And, in fact, I believe it's essential to expose yourself to different views and beliefs. It allows you to see different perspectives and really examine why you think the way you do. You You may even change your beliefs, just a little bit, but it also strengthens the beliefs you have and choose to keep. You get to the core of what you believe and why.

How many of us really critically examine the beliefs we grew up with? How many of us are just taking what we learned for granted?

That's why, when I'm on Twitter (and also in real life), I follow athiest skeptics and religious traditionalists, although I fall somewhat closer to the skeptic end of that scale (I'm a theistic agnostic. Confused? Click here). I made a decision very early not to exclude people as friends based on religious belief. People are more alike than different, IMHO. If people are interesting, have interesting things to say and if we have something in common, then they're someone worth knowing, even if they are a Christian and I am a Pagan.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What were the ten best films of 2008?

Jason over at Mahalo Answers has posted another $100 Question of the day. Today, it's:

What were the ten best films of 2008?

If you've not tried Mahalo Answers yet, this is an easy, entry-level question that anyone can participate in by answering. It's not like you have to have any specialized knowledge to give a good answer. You just have to think of your 10 favorite films this year, and give a short blurb on why you liked them. If you do that, you have a real chance to win $100 dollars! How cool is that?

As I've mentioned before, I'm not in this for the money. Nevertheless, I'll be throwing my hat into the ring on this question to see what I can come up with. I do so hope you'll join me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I <3 Mahalo Answers

According to Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis, the thing that you do where somebody asks you a question on a the web, and then you answer them, is called a "knowledge exchange." I always just called it "fun."

As an online friend once said about me, "If you happen to ask an open-ended question around her, you will find your question answered." I enjoy working with information, and there's nothing more satisfying than finding the answer to a tough question through research.

I've been the go-to person for questions at my office and in my circle of friends for years, especially for questions about language, science and cooking.

So it's no surprise that I am in love with Mahalo Answers.

Mahalo Answers is a lot like Yahoo Answers, which has been around a while. Essentially, peoople ask and answer questions in a Web-based format. The askers look at all the responses, and choose the best answer. But there are a few key differences.

First, there is a real emphasis on quality of the answers. Citations, and refutations are encouraged. I dabbled in Yahoo Answers for a while, but found there were a lot of stupid questions and snarky answers. It really turned me off.

Second, there is a monetary system that can allow you to earn money when using Mahalo Answers. You buy Mahalo Dollars, and then can offer them as tips as part of the questions you ask. The person you select with the best answer gets the tip. Then you can eventually cash out your tips and actually make money. Not only is the making money angle cool, in theory, this also helps to increase the quality of an answer, or at least the number of responses.

Third, the Mahalo Answers is incorporated into Mahalo's Search Engine Results pages. So people who surf over to Mahalo's page on, say, Bob Dylan, can see the questions that people have asked about him. If they have a question that is not answered on the Search results page or in those Mahalo Answers questions, they can hop over to Mahalo Answers and ask it themselves.

Fourth, there's already a community of people built up around Mahalo that is working with Mahalo Answers. This includes guides who work for Mahalo, like me, and others who simply enjoy the site.

And the types of questions that are asked and answered are quite varied. I've seen very few questions so far that didn't have at least two answers, even the very technical or obscure ones.

So, to sum it up in Reading Rainbow style:

"Do you like helpingn people find answers to their questions? Or do you have some questions you haven't been able to answer but want to? Then heck out Mahalo Answers. You'll be glad you did...but you don't have to take my word for it."

Friday, December 12, 2008

RIP Bettie Page

Although not unexpected, as she had been ill for several weeks, and had fallen gravely ill in early December, it's still sad news that Bettie Page has died.

Read More Here.

She was such a beauty. Great hair, great smile, girl-next door features, and such a playful and adventurous spirit that shows through in all her photos.

Even though she herself really never knew of her fame until later in life-she gave up the modeling and pinup career in 1957 to become a born-again Christian-her legacy is simply amazing.

In our modern times where things can be much more, er, graphic, she is an example of a classier form of sexy that has, to a certain extent, gone out of vogue.

Page pushed boundaries, appearing in photoshoots with sadomasochistic themes which, for their day, were scandalous, but now seem tame. We owe her a great debt.

So, if you're already a fan of Bettie Page, take today to celebrate her. If you don't really know what she's all about, then check out some of her images and her official Web site. But don't do it at work, because although her poses are tamer than those of today, there's still a fair amount of topless photos.

Bettie Page

The Notorious Bettie Page (movie)

More pinup girls