Worcester Gadget Fiesta

posted by Mike on January 28th, 2008


This weekend, 4 of us played with 2 gadgets that are intended to establish new market niches and which embrace “openness”: the XO (aka OLPC, a tiny laptop for developing-world kids) and the Chumby (a tiny wifi-enabled Linux box intended to compete with clock radios).

Worcester Commons webcam on a Chumby

My blog post “The Chumby Is a Waste of Money” is coming soon, but I have to admit that watching the Worcester Commons webcam on this thing was pure fun.


Whatever the faults of OLPC’s strategy, their project already seems to have scared for-profit companies into making laptops for developing-world kids. And boy, the XO is a sweet piece of hardware: playing with it, I got the same thrill as when I first used the Wii and iPhone.

Odd UI: A big plus, in my book. What’s life without challenges?

Interesting apps: Two friends, much less geeky than I, had great fun seeing what they could get this thing to do. If there’s a fine line between confusing and intriguing, this is on the right side of that line.

Durable: I’m very hard on gadgets, so I love the solid feel of the XO. This is the only laptop I’d be comfortable using as a club or cutting board.

Cute as heck: Your iPhone will look sleek this year, old-fashioned next year. A thing of cuteness is cute forever.


We were telling one friend about the arty video game Passage (via Kottke), and Nick got it running on the XO. A cool end to a cool afternoon.

The XO in Darfur
XO vs. Macbook Air
Using the Chumby to build a robot car

Ten other MLK quotes

posted by Mike on January 21st, 2008

Jay Smooth: Ten OTHER Things Martin Luther King Said

via Maximum Fun

Catonsville Nine: The 40th anniversary

posted by Mike on January 16th, 2008

On May 17, 1968, a group of Catholics now known as the “Catonsville Nine” went to the draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, took 378 draft files, brought them to the parking lot in wire baskets, dumped them out, poured homemade napalm over them, and set them on fire.

To remember the anniversary of this event, which continues to bear fruit today, we talked with Catonsville Nine member (and our housemate) Tom Lewis. Also part of the conversation is long-time peace activist Emeritus Professor Michael D. True, Ph.D. and Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa).

Strategies for zombie defense

posted by Mike on December 20th, 2007

Here’s a long interview with occasional Pie and Coffee contributor Scott Schaeffer-Duffy about zombies, and how compassion is a key part of defense against zombie attack.

Scott: Division and self-interest are not good solutions. Building up walls, keeping out people, not being hospitable, they’re not good solutions cause ultimately somebody’s gonna catapult a plague victim over your walls because of the bitterness. You’re gonna end up divided with each other. You gotta keep your values intact.

Mike: So actually Worcester’s success in dealing with people who are experiencing homelessness, or addiction, or whatever, maybe comes into play when we face zombie attack.

Scott: The compassionate cities are gonna fare better.

Learning to Read

posted by Mike Ciul on December 13th, 2007

I just discovered this article by Janine Schwab in PeaceWork Magazine. It’s about living in a foreign country, poetry and activism. It includes the author’s own translation of a poem by Viennese refugee Erich Fried.

from a poem
awaits salvation
should rather
to read poems

from a single poem
expects no salvation
should rather
to read poems.

posted by Mike Ciul in Books, Creative Resistance | on December 13th, 2007 | Permanent Link to “Learning to Read” | No Comments »

Videos: Every Church a Peace Church

posted by Mike on October 11th, 2007

ecapc.pngI’ve made a video feed for the series Every Church a Peace Church.

These videos feature people such as Don Edwards, Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy, Ed Loring and Murphy Davis, Jim Wallis, and Cornel West.

To subscribe to the feed in Miro, click here.

Miro Video Player

Get your Jägerstätter holy cards

posted by Mike on September 19th, 2007


The Catholic Peace Fellowship has printed some nice Franz Jägerstätter holy cards. They are asking a donation of 25 cents per card plus something for shipping.

Jägerstätter was an Austrian Catholic beheaded by the Nazis for not joining their army. He will be officially beatified next month.

How to use Miro

posted by Mike on July 20th, 2007

Now that the Miro media player has gotten really good, I encourage my friends to download it. They’re always a bit disoriented at first. What are you supposed to do with this thing?

Well, here’s how I use it. (If you’re totally confused, watch this video.)
Read the rest of this entry »

A Toronto twist on anti-panhandling signs

posted by Mike on June 11th, 2007

toronto.jpgA fellow Worcester blogger alerted me to this Toronto art project from earlier this year.

Mark Daye made these signs, with slogans like “Homeless Sleeping–QUIET,” for his design school thesis.

Spacing Wire has lots more pix, and The Star has an article. (I lifted this photo from The Star.)

Puts me in mind of Worcester’s ill-fated anti-panhandling campaign. The response to that mostly involved modifying existing signage, rather than creating new signs.

A weathered sign

The Wealth of Networks podcast

posted by Mike on May 23rd, 2007

Here’s a recording of myself reading Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks.

To listen, see the Internet Archive page, or download a zip of the mp3s (559MB).

For a taste, listen to Chapter 12 (the conclusion), which is the best reading of the bunch.

[Download Chapter 12 mp3 (17MB)]

I read most of this book under less-than-ideal circumstances, as documented below:

  • Chapter 1: valium
  • Part 1 intro: fasting, tired
  • Chapter 2: just woke up
  • Chapter 3: too much coffee
  • Chapter 4: caffeine withdrawal
  • Part 2 intro: fasting
  • Chapter 5: too much coffee, very tired
  • Chapter 6 : woke up in the middle of the night
  • Chapter 7: a few drinks
  • Chapter 8: hungry, skipped lunch
  • Chapter 9: too much melatonin
  • Chapter 10: trazodone
  • Part 3 intro: lots of coffee plus valium
  • Chapter 11: tea
  • Chapter 12: happy to be in the home stretch

I really gotta re-record Chapter 1 one of these days.

Thanks to Nick Nassar, Avera Morrison, and Doug Higgs for equipment solidarity.