The tools of persistance, with a pinch of pepper

Aug 6, 2012

Teaching Oliver to crush pepper

As Dave Winer tells it in Chipping away at ‘hard’ — for the poets, I persisted in trying to get Radio2 and River2 functioning, but just wasn’t understanding how it was I was supposed to connect the S3 buckets to the OPML software.

This was after we had agreed, on a phone call a couple of weeks ago, that I didn’t know enough about server technology and so I should concentrate on using the tools he’d set up for me on his server in order to get a good feel for their simplicity and power.

But, I’ve been reading Dave for a decade now, and I see the promise of managing my own content and the tools to create that content. That’s exactly why I started mucking around with HTML and blogging when I got out of the Peace Corps in 1999. Textpattern, the CMS I’ve been using since 2005, is about to go to version 4.5, a testament to the persistence of the volunteer community that’s kept that tool alive for so long.

The Textpattern developers and Dave and quite a few others working on open-source projects inspire me to keep learning, and teaching. I thought of this tonight as I made chicken noodle soup, with two-year-old Oliver in my arms (I follow Michael Ruhlman, whose dictum that America is not too stupid to cook: roast chicken, stock, soup).

Oliver wanted to help, so he started rummaging through the drawer, asking me what each item was, and repeating the words.

Rolling pin. Rolling pin.

Can opener. Can opener.

Sifter. Sifter.

Skewer. Skewer. (Quick lesson about sharp objects.)

Scale. Scale. (That one is fun, because there’s an on/off button.)

I could literally hear his vocabulary expanding, his brain learning.

I took down the mortar and pestle, grabbed some peppercorn, and taught him how to crush, then toss a pinch of pepper into the soup. (Quick lesson about rubbing eyes after touching pepper.) Pinch of parsley went in next.

The soup was a hit with the kids, so much so that there was none left by the time Erin got home from work.

After dinner, Oliver and I laced up our sneakers and ran down to the cul-de-sac to play basketball, me lifting him up so he could drop the ball through the net.

So, anyway, Dave called me up last week. He noticed that I was still at it, working through the OPML Editor/Server Howto Directory but clearly stumped by multiple issues. He could have told me to take a hike for not heeding his earlier advice, but instead he gave me a couple of hours of his time to fix the server issues, teach me a few things about how parts of the internet work, and see the connections. When he told me last month on our bike ride and in coffee conversation that we should work together, he meant it.

From the tone of his post today, I get the sense Dave might have felt something similar to what I felt when I was helping Oliver learn by doing. You’ve got to read his post, and not because I’m in there — notice how many other people he lists as having the knowledge and opportunity to teach. Pass it on. Pretty and powerful.

And now I have a new set of tools to work with.

You can see my Radio2 blogging on the static archives page (that is, a .html page) and you can subscribe to the feed. I’m close to replacing the Sugarcubes linklog in the mistersugar.com sidebar with this Radio2 feed. My Radio2 posts also automatically go to my @mistersugar Twitter stream. I’m using stor.im as my personal URL shortener, and slowly rebuilding my daily newsfeed interests in River2, as well.

Soon, I’ll start writing my own tutorials, posing my own threads, making my own phone calls to friends who need help getting going with these tools.

Anton Zuiker

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