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A special message to GRAVATAR users

There are so many interesting people that I want to check out but they don’t take the time to add their blog, website or social media link at their GRAVATAR page. Do you really expect me to search thru Google looking for your moniker when so many others often use the same or a similar one?

Please add the link(s). The web is supposed to be fast and easy, not a hassle!


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Is university still a place to question and explore?

As far back as 1992 in a graduate studies methodology course I questioned the psychiatric model – not dismissing it, mind you, but questioning it. After all, that’s what we’re supposed to do in academia, right? University is not a church or a political party. It’s a place where the mind can explore new possibilities and critique existing conditions.

Sadly, the professor who hosted the course was a capricious, cynical stooge. He is alleged to have said that “a university is a place where a professor can get a paycheck.” And after initially agreeing to write letters of recommendation for post-doc scholarships, at the last minute, just before application deadlines, he changed his mind and literally shafted me.

“Shafted” might sound like a harsh word but it’s the very word the Department Head at the time used to describe what happened, later on, when I was also not given the chance to teach a course, which is important to your CV.

Sensing that my academic future was on the line, I went through every legitimate government agency, asking for help. Everybody just passed the buck and I didn’t get a fair chance to compete for a post-doc scholarship. (I had a fantastic track record for getting funding before running into this professor).

I suppose there is some value in seeing the dark side of life along with the sunny side. Until meeting this professor, I was the apple of just about every professor’s eye. I’d hear comments like “It’s Michael Clark and all the other students.” Or “She is not as good as you.” (“she” being a leading student). “What would we do without you, Mike!” Michael Clark is “stellar,” “outstanding,” and I could go on. But when I encountered this dishonorable professor, the dynamic changed.

Let’s not fool ourselves. University is as politically charged and potentially corrupt as any other social institution. The higher you go, the more you see it. I was naïve at the time and could not understand why one crummy professor’s actions could seemingly influence so many others. But that’s what apparently happened. Many professors who once glowingly supported me suddenly did not return my emails. Some had integrity and hung in there, and for that I am truly appreciative. However, the ones who did try to help were mostly undergraduate professors. And that just doesn’t cut it when you need several letters of recommendation for post-doc funding (My Masters professors were all in India, which in the 1990s was still a difficult place to communicate with, and I was not given adequate time for snail mail).

The professor who shafted me would have known all this. In his jaded, cynical way, he was clever. He tried to slough me off by suggesting I go see my “Peterborough people” after changing his mind about supporting me. (Peterborough, Ontario is where I did my undergraduate studies).

Weird? Not really. I see it more clearly now. But I don’t like to use overly nasty words at this blog. It would alienate readers and get the site designated as mature, which would only hinder any chance of getting a more positive message out there.

Anyhow, today’s tweet brought back a lot of memories. I wrote about the DSM-III-R from a cross-cultural perspective back in 1992-93. I was moderate and didn’t romanticize things. I recognized that people with mental injury or differences often do suffer.

But it only took one creepy professor with a bit of imo questionable power to put me in the academic trash can. He was the kind of professor who was often seen volunteering in the department mail room when the mail room secretary wasn’t around. But he would rarely, if ever, show up at colloquia and graduate presentations. It seems he liked to sift through the mail more than talk about intellectual issues, which in retrospect seems pretty strange to me. No time for academic debate? Lots of time to play mail boy?

Little did this enigmatic professor know, however, that out of the ashes, Earthpages.org | Earthpages.ca would arise. So even though I’m not getting paid for doing this blog, at least the internet has provided a forum that one lousy, authoritarian professor tried to shut down.

I mean, this guy may have had power in Religious Studies within the Canadian system. But he couldn’t shut down Google. And Google US recognized the value of Earthpages well before any search engines north of the border did. A little nod to my American friends. 🙂


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Ethics in the Digital Age

Ethics class

Ethics class (Photo credit: aditza121)

Copyright © Adam Wood, 2013

Whenever a new technology arrives, laws are created to prevent abuses and to ensure fair play among users. The effect of new inventions on society is sort of like the old Wild West. Freewheeling technology users do just about anything they can, and change comes fast. Consumers spend much time and energy mastering their new toys, while companies are mostly concerned with innovation and growth. Ethical issues might be raised but the laws to enforce them come later. This is because new technologies raise novel, complicated questions that require careful consideration.

Think of the automobile. Licensing wasn’t always mandatory in the US and, in the beginning, drivers made their own license plates out of ceramics. These days, practically every country demands certain skills and, of course, paying a government fee to obtain a driver’s license and vehicle plate.

Vonage V-Portal retreiving IP Address

Vonage V-Portal retreiving IP Address (Photo credit: K. Todd Storch)

Other examples can be found with computers and the internet. New laws are being written right now to protect intellectual property, from trending pop tunes to the latest software coding. And recently, the idea of willing your email or social media accounts to another person before your natural death is gaining popularity. Google’s Digital Will allows grieving relatives to remove a loved one’s internet account after they’ve passed, provided the accounts have been willed to them. In the past, some have sued internet-based companies to ensure that a deceased person’s account goes offline.

Human relationships can pose additional ethical dilemmas in the digital age. Imagine two lovers who plan to spend their lives together. But the man deceives and suddenly leaves the woman. He seems happy to be free while the woman is devastated. She asks him to stop emailing her and leave her alone so she can move on. He finds a new partner while she remains single. Despite this, he continues to visit her blog and she sees his IP address through her blog stats. The man knows she can see his IP address, so could his behavior could be taken as a type of attention seeking and possibly emotional abuse?

This might seem to be pushing it. But let’s consider the problem another way. Let’s say the man doesn’t visit the woman’s blog. Instead, he drives to her home every few days and, each time, leaves a signed note in her mailbox saying “I was here.”

Image via Tumblr

How would this be viewed by the law? Would the man be guilty of stalking? If so, the woman could pursue a restraining order to keep him at a psychologically safe distance.

The previous example of the IP address showing up after the man visits her blog isn’t too different. It has a similar psychological effect. But what legal recourse would the woman have to prevent the man from digitally ‘dropping by’ and reactivating the harmful emotions triggered by his lying and abandoning her?

Until laws are drawn up for these subtler forms of emotional abuse, unethical internet users will probably continue to satisfy their own needs at the expense of others who have no legal recourse to stop them.


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Google Glass… the next big thing?

Image via Pinterest / Google

Google Glass… the next big thing? www.google.com/…

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Stephen Hawking on Larry King Tonight – Top Three Tweets

Top Three Tweets

More alternative headlines at twitter.com/earthpages

  1. No God needed? Stephen Hawking and O.C. priest on Larry King – OC Science : The Orange County Register: http://bit.ly/9CIY1g via @addthis
  2. AFP: China to launch next lunar space mission: http://bit.ly/dA31Hx via @addthis
  3. Facebook inches past Google for Web users’ minutes – Yahoo! News: http://yhoo.it/bU5AvZ via @addthis

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For geeks only…

computer_nice_150.jpgNow that Earthpages.ca – Think Free is becoming a bit better known I find myself posting more comments than ever. Being a stickler for spelling, I used to copy and paste my comments into my word-processor to spell-check before posting because many blog sites don’t have spell-checking for comments. This took time, was a hassle, and sometimes caused more trouble than good because I felt that posting into my word-processor somehow robbed me of the sense of immediacy that is so vital to the web. Remember McLuhan who said ‘the medium is the message?’ Well, maybe it had something to do with that.

But to make a long story short… The other day I explored my I.E. 7 browser and discovered that with a simple right-click a Google spell-checker for on-line forms appears. And oh, what a relief it is! Errors show up in red and corrected versions are green. Almost like Christmas!

In the past I’ve been pretty minimalist with downloading updates, mostly because I had modest equipment (I still do) and didn’t want to load up my HD with tons of junk that I didn’t need. But the times are a changin’, and so am I. Now I’m realizing that it’s good to keep step with the latest software.

In most cases, anyhow…