5 things I read with interest and/or enjoyment this week: TED, grammar, Kenya, China & (yes) Journatic

Leaving Journatic

How many times have you read a top manager’s explanation of why he’s resigning from a company? Mike Fourcher shared his reasons for leaving Journatic via his blog Saturday, kind of an unusual action for a journalist.

Added 7/16: Journatic says it was planning to fire Fourcher anyway > Read this Chicago Tribune article and, from Poynter.org, more fake byline fallout (plus Chicago Tribune suspends its use of Journatic stories)

I’m not sure how I feel about it: we in the world of journalism generally keep our personal motives for career moves to ourselves (and share with our close friends and colleagues). Still, I was curious and concerned enough about the whole Journatic “thing” to read the post and appreciated the insights therein.

Fourcher’s post is frank and heartfelt. It also provides a behind-the-scenes perspective of the company that got journalists around the country talking after hearing This American Life’s “Switcheroo” episode (June 29).

Talking TED

The phenomenon of TED is interesting on a number of levels. An expensive lectures-based conference (a ticket costs $7500) in Long Beach, Calif.? Video talks viewable online (800 million views to date)? People, both famous and unknown, talking about their ideas? At first blush, the attraction may be a bit mysterious. Still, as Nathan Heller writes in The New Yorker (July 9 & 16 issue), people who attend the conference or its TEDx spinoffs (produced by volunteers around the world) find TED positively transporting.

“TED may present itself as an ideas conference, but most people seem to watch the lectures not so much for the information as for how they make them feel.”

Good grammar

Talking, thinking and reading about words makes me happy. Putting words together in ways that are grammatically correct–and sometimes just grammatically interesting–and finding my sentences make sense and may even be elegant feels good. Is this how a painter feels when the colors and lines in her head translate perfectly on the canvas?

I recognize that language changes and evolves, and I love this. Still, we do have some accepted rules of the road, and people flaunt irksome (dare I say irresponsible?) practices on a daily basis. Or, perhaps grammar gaffes are simply a result of ignorance?

Never fear! The Grammar Girl is here. Her latest is worth reading: 7 Words You’re Probably Misusing

Sociology & social media

I read about  woman named Tricia Wang in a Fast Company article online. Here’s how the piece describes her:

“A sociologist, ethnographer, and corporate consultant who studies global technology use among migrants, low-income people, youth, and others on society’s fringes, Wang has worked for the past several years in China.”

Specially, Wang is studying the impact of digital tools on Chinese people who are migrating from rural to urban areas. One of the things I took away from the article was an admiration for the way Wang has been able to translate her passion and intellectual inclinations into a job, although she doesn’t think of what she does as an actual job. There’s a lesson in this.

High on Kenya

To quote Lt. Provenza from my favorite show, The Closer: “I don’t run.” I used to run. I used to run in Kenya. True story. When I was a student at a boarding school called Imani in the town of Thika (about 45 minutes by road from Nairobi), I used to rise before dawn to run around the red dirt track. This lasted for about six months.

I can’t remember how many laps I did, but I had the sense that running would deliver me from whatever teenage angst-y issues I was experiencing at the time. I can’t remember if it worked, but I do remember feeling the famous runner’s high: the euphoria that came from the physical achievement coupled with the sheer willpower of getting up and doing it.

Plus, I could often seen Mt. Kenya floating in the clouds as the sun came up.

This all came back to me as I read “Runner’s High,” in AFAR magazine (a great new travel magazine, by the way). It’s mostly about a high-altitude training facility near Lake Baringo, which I visited on a school field trip. But the wider story of Kenya was just lovely.

While I have no desire to run these days, the article brought back palpable memories of that Kenya magic. Like most magic, the Kenya variety is difficult for me to articulate: the physical beauty, the sense of connection to the earth and all living things, the spirit of the people, and an intensity that’s not always pleasant–but always made me feel alive.


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