Weekend Reading: raising Olympians, blogging, digital ethics, and music

Weekend Reading is a weekly collation of 3-5 articles that have caught my attention, published on Saturday mornings. Previous editions can be found here.

1. How a Tiny Vermont Town Raised 11 Olympians (LetGrow.org)

Then a casual conversation between Hannah’s mother and a member of the Norwich Recreation Council led to a phone call from the council member’s father, a self-made millionaire who wanted to help. He would provide funds for Hannah’s skiing and asked for only two things in return: a copy of her grades every term and a detailed budget of how she spent the money. Years later, Hannah expressed gratitude for the man’s gift of money – and perspective. “It was all about my report cards, not my ski results,” she said, “and in being that way he was sending the message that investing in your brain is a little more long-term than investing in freestyle skiing.”

2. Professors, Start Your Blogs (DanCohen.org)

The addition of professorial blogs to the web will enrich the medium greatly. The critics of blogging are perhaps onto something when they note that the blogosphere has too many people writing on too few topics (does the world really need another blog on the latest moves of Apple Computer?). Although they frequently teach broad, introductory courses, professors are hired and promoted because they are specialists who discover and explain things that few others understand. For these theorists and researchers, blogging can be a powerful way to provide “notes from the field” and glosses on topics that perhaps a handful of others worldwide know a lot about. While I tend to avoid the hot term of the moment, professors are the true masters of the “long tail” of knowledge.

3. Tending the Digital Commons: A Small Ethics toward the Future (The Hedgehog Review)

The first answers to these questions are quite concrete. This is not a case in which a social problem can profitably be addressed by encouraging people to change their way of thinking—although as a cultural critic I naturally default to that mode of suasion. It goes against my nature to say simply that certain specific changes in practice are required. But this is what I must say. We need to revivify the open Web and teach others—especially those who have never known the open Web—to learn to live extramurally: outside the walls.


It is common to refer to universally popular social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest as “walled gardens.” But they are not gardens; they are walled industrial sites, within which users, for no financial compensation, produce data which the owners of the factories sift and then sell. Some of these factories (Twitter, Tumblr, and more recently Instagram) have transparent walls, by which I mean that you need an account to post anything but can view what has been posted on the open Web; others (Facebook, Snapchat) keep their walls mostly or wholly opaque. But they all exercise the same disciplinary control over those who create or share content on their domain.

4. Why Community Needs Music (HumanePursuits.com)

I’m the music director, which means that I clunk out the hymns on our piano and sing the melody as boldly as I can. At first, this was really hard for me and I had to lay down a good bit of self-consciousness and pride.  In American culture, one’s voice is very personal. I was used to playing in worship bands and singing into microphones, which made me sound better. It took a bit of swallowing to sing in the way that is best for my congregation. I have to be that church lady: projecting and challenging my alto to reach the high notes for the sake of a strong melody.

As time has gone on and I’ve stopped thinking so much about my personal sound, I’ve probably become a better singer. But I’ve come to realize that this act — this forgetting of myself for the sake of the whole — is the core of real community. And, thankfully, we’re all doing it together.  I think we’ve all realized that our service is much better when we purposely forget ourselves and sing heartily.