Continue talking: #ADiscuss

5 Jun

Big Boom is off the radio. But it’s on in a whole new way. Join #ADiscuss tomorrow on Skype (SN: tipiopal, 11(ish)am-12,Central,US)! It’s a new series of Big Boom discussions on various topics. Follow me on Twitter @BigBoomCU for #ADiscuss announcements. 

6/5 #ADiscuss preview: “We’ve made a world we cannot control.” This quotation comes from a May New Scientist opinion piece, which describes how we will “innovate” ourselves out of existence. We put our trust into science, and reap the benefits of medicines, energy, food, everything. Pesticides makes our crops immune to bugs and specially engineered corn can grow tightly without suffocating. Oil is an incredibly efficient fuel source, and antibiotics were a miracle drug in the developed world and are still a miracle drug among developing societies. But then we realized that we made mistakes in implementation, or outright maliciously disregarded the negative effects of our innovations. Pesticides began to build up in and destroy adjacent species of plants and animals and the new engineered plants disrupted ecosystems. The effectiveness of natural fuels lead to a rampant overuse and destruction of our envrionement. Overuse has also lowered the effectiveness of antibacterial medicines.

We developed the technologies, used them in our societies, but then ignored the collateral damage because if we just narrowly looked at the positives – cheap abundant corn and gas – the world looked great.

In the words of Tom Wolfe writing an opinion piece for the New York Times in 2009, “[They] neglected to recruit a corps of philosophers.” Wolfe was writing about an innovation that failed in the eyes of the American public: NASA. Once, NASA had a goal to put a man on the Moon. Then, the scientific benefits became less catchy and, thus, too complicated to understand. The marketing sucks.

Oil has no problem with marketing. Neither do car companies. Neither do cheap food manufacturers. But they still need the philosophers to look at the mess we’ve created in the name of the Green Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, and say “What the hell are we doing? Where will we end up?”

6/5, Skype SN: tipiopal, 11(ish)am-12,Central,US

Further reading:

“Out of control: How to live in an unfathomable world,” New Scientist

“One Giant Leap to Nowhere,” New York Times


No. 25: To Have a Home

26 May

Preview! [00:35]

Full show! [1:02:36]

This is a conversation with seven women from two housing projects in Champaign and Urbana. The homes – Joann Dorsey and Dunbar Court – are slated for demolition and the Housing Authority expects that with housing vouchers in hand, the residents will be well on their way to self-sufficiency. They’ll be out of government housing, negotiating their rent and terms with landlords, finding homes to live in and ways to pull together a life outside “the projects.”

But life skills education is an important element missing from the lives of many residents, says Margaret Neil, a Housing Authority Commissioner and resident of Joann Dorsey Homes. [1:50]

These women are ready to leave. Restless, even. In this conversation, they share the struggle to keep their kids from joining dangerous groups, the harassment by the cops, the struggles and frustrations of a hard life, and their hopes for the change ahead of them.

Listen Up!

26 May


Find future Big Boom projects here and follow my pursuits on Twitter on the “Bird Calls” feed on this page or @BigBoomCU.

No. 24: My house

19 May

Kate and Ryan's Living Room

Full show! [59:10]

About six months ago, Kate and Ryan realized they could finally afford to buy a house. They created a beautiful home out of a a 1969 property that had a crack stretching across the living room ceiling, mold, and improperly installed bathroom tiles which caused the toilet to leak. A City of Champaign incentive program called Acquisition/Rehab gave the young married couple with a baby $25,000 to fix up the house and money toward their down payment.  Tune in to learn more and about what’s happening to the program now.

Kerri Spear, the Neighborhood Programs Manager at the City, helped me to understand the program and shared her own experiences and understanding of the housing market. You can listen to parts of our conversation below.

Why own a home anyway? [03:47]

What are the obstacles to home ownership? [02:38]

For more housing assistance programs in Champaign, take a look at this brochure or contact the Neighborhood Programs Division of the city at (217) 403-7070.

For housing assistance programs in Urbana, click here to read about the city’s First-Time Homebuyer Program, or contact the Community Development Services Division of the city at (217) 384-2440 .

No. 23: Once upon a time …

12 May

Preview! [00:35]

Full show! [58:52]

Back when we roamed playgrounds and play pens, when we sat in tiny chairs in a classroom crowded with colorful pictures and artwork painted by tiny people, we used to hire others to read to us, to tell us of magical travels and fantastic animals, of clever boys and cleverer mothers. Tuesday’s show took us back to our beloved past. Sit back and enjoy.

Here’s the bibliography of all the books my researcher, Megean Osuchowski, found for this show, even though we only used three.

Tatterhood and other tales, edited by Johnston Phelps
Top Secret, by John Reynolds Gerdiner
The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
You Don’t Even Know Me: stories and poems about boys, by Sharon G. Flake
I Want to Live: the Diary of a Young Girl in Stalin’s Russia, by Nina Lugovskaya
The Wonderful Story of Henrgy Sugar and Six More, by Roald Dahl
How Wonderful the Ordinary: Twelve Stories of Identity, edited by Michael Cart
The Celebrated Travelling Rock of Champaign County or If Rocks Could Talk, by Marilyn Rasmusen,
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah
Snow Falling in Spring: Coming of Age in China During the Cultural Revolution, by Moying Li
Genghis Khan: 13th Century Mongolian Tyrant, by Enid A. Goldberg and Norman Itzkowitz
The Dr. Seuss book Oh, The Places You’ll Go! is my own.

Find these and other narratives and exciting stories at the Urbana Free and Champaign Public Libraries!

No. 22: Python for the People

6 May

Preview! [00:33]

Full show! [59:10]

My friend Tripta came to Champaign on Tuesday to talk to me about learning the programming language Python. My dad and brother are computer scientists but programming always seemed beyond my understanding. However, Tripta’s independent study and work to make studying computer programming accessible to people in San Fransisco inspired me to understand programming as a tool for empowerment, instead of an unsolvable and cryptic puzzle. It’s another skill to learn, for fun, for business, to increase efficiency in science labs, to learn about computers, to teach kids math. Tripta’s work with groups like PyStar in San Francisco engages communities underrepresented in the world of computer science with networks of workshops, learners and teachers.

Flash Orchestra!

28 Apr

International Flash Orchestra, this evening at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana. Nothing goes better with wine, cheese, crackers and great conversation than some Bolero, materializing out of the blue. And right after we were discussing how some ten years ago Krannert changed when the current director was hired. It went from being a high-brow classical establishment to now featuring jazz, a guitar festival, Japanese drummers, and more.