The Gospel of Doubt

Last month Zachary Moore was kind enough to provide information for an introduction to the Fellowship of Freethought Dallas. Zach is very active in the freethought community and is engaged in a form of outreach to Christians. As he puts it, his objective isn’t necessarily to convert them to atheism/agnosticism . Rather, he wants to get them thinking about their faith.

The video below was recorded earlier this year at Westside Unitarian Universalist Church in Fort Worth, Texas. In it he speaks about his his “Gospel of Doubt” writing project and the work he does with religious people. It’s certainly interesting to hear an atheist not only preaching, but also quoting the Bible as he does so. Though I’m not convinced of his exegesis in the message below, he makes an interesting case for his approach.

He did so well with this message that that Westside UU invited him back in early July to speak again. Click here for that message, on “Peacemaking.”


See Also: 
An Introduction to Fellowship of Freethought Dallas
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Um Teatro do Estação Vida

Esta gravação é de uma apresentação recente do Projetos Sociais Estação Vida, realizada pelo curso de Teatro da Universidade Federal de Uberlândia. Já compartilhei antes sobre um outro projeto artístico do Estação Vida, e eu espero também poder colocar em andamento um novo projeto de jornalismo digital nos próximos dois mêses.


Confere também: 
Uma Introdução ao Projetos Sociais Estação Vida

People in the U.S. Try Brazilian Snacks For The First Time

In 1997 I visited Brazil for the first time. It was an amazing experience. Aside from the welcoming people and beautiful weather, I found the food couldn’t be beaten. From full meals to simple snacks, this is a great country for cuisine.

Earlier this year I shared a video of a British man trying out Brazilian snacks. His review was pretty amusing. A shorter video, though with a little less depth, is also available from a U.S. perspective. Check it out.

Uberlândia Completes 126 Years

On August 28, 1888, the town until then known as Brejo Alegre became the city of Araguary. Three days later, San Pedro de Uberabinha, later called Uberlândia, became independent. A little over 111 years later, in January 2000, I first set foot in Uberlândia. A Brazilian acquaintance had visited my university only a few months prior and really talked up the city, to which he’d moved not long before. In those days I was looking to begin full-time, career mission service in Brazil and was considering which city to take as a base of operations. Campinas might have been my first choice, although a missionary in the far-northern city of Belém was very insistent I check out the work there. When I first heard “Uberlândia” I thought, “Uber where?”

It was more or less love at first sight for me when I saw the city. My first experience in Brazil had been in Campinas, a city I still have an affection for, and followed by Belo Horizonte. This latter always seemed horrid to me, seeming violent, dirty and disorganized. The former was good, though violent crime was a problem. Uberlândia, on the other hand, had a small town feel with a lot of truly modern conveniences.

Taken from the “backwoods region” called Sertão of Farinha Podre – nowadays known as the Triângulo Mineiro, this growing city has a lot to offer, including a quality of life that I’d say is far better than that of larger cities in this country, such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Its vibrancy over the years has come from investments in infrastructure and private enterprise.

The driving force that distinguished the region early on was the implementation of the Mogiana Company of Railroads in Uberlândia, in 1895. With the link to São Paulo coffee production the economy of the city took a leap forward. In following years Uberlândia took its place as a center of wholesale distribution, and with the boom in commodities and increased foreign investment since the end of the military dictatorship in Brazil in the 1980s, agribusiness has become a major concern in the area as well. Companies like Monsanto and Cargill maintain major operations in the Uberlândia area.

As I’ve noted in a previous post, Uberlândia shows promising signs of becoming a technological outpost. The presence of major tech and telecom companies in this city, including the homegrown Algar Group, push innovation and development in the region. Additionally, there are numerous smaller digital agencies and web development operations around the city. Someone in North America or Europe looking to outsource software and web development would do well to look here. Recently the first annual Project Management seminar for the region was held in Uberlândia, which I was pleased to attend.

Aside from the Uberlândia Federal University (UFU), numerous other private universities now have thousands of students enrolled in the city. Young people from here, from surrounding cities and even from other states come to attend UFU. Those from larger cities enjoy a smaller, usually safer experience than they’d have in their home cities, while young people from smaller cities get their first taste of something akin to “big city life.” All have an opportunity to build their future through hard work and dedication.

With two malls and a third on the way, along with a variety of smaller shops and restaurants, shopping and eating out in this city is facilitated by a range of good options. Someone who’s lived in a major metropolitan area will miss some conveniences, though I personally believe this lack is compensated by a generally better quality of life.

Despite not having any beaches or major tourist attractions, Uberlândia is a great city for making a life and raising a family. In fact, my children were both born here. Yes, there are the issues typical of Brazilian cities, such as crime and poverty. These are far less significant here, however, in comparison to other places in the country.

Happy Birthday Uberlândia.

Mere Months Old, Brazil’s Internet Bill of Rights Already Up for Amendment

Remember that old adage about someone whose only tool is a hammer thinking everything looks like a nail? That sort of describes Brazilian legislators. Brazil’s Law 12,965 / 2014, the much-acclaimed and occasionally reviled “Internet Bill of Rights,” isn’t even 5 months old and already plans are in the works to amend it.

Senate bill 180 2014 was proposed amending some provisions of Law No. 12.965, of April 23, 2014 – Civil Marco Internet, to establish the purpose and restrict the role of public authorities who may have access to private data of citizens on the Internet, among other changes.

With respect to ordering the removal of potentially illegal content (in terms of racism, libel and other crimes), the law in its present form complicates the lives of prosecutors and the police, demanding that such requests be made through the judiciary and not directly to the provider. An amendment included in this bill would change that, enabling civil authorities to bypass the judicial system in demanding content removal.

In article 21, the bill expands the possibilities of notice and take down, not only for cases involving sexual images or videos but also with respect to any content that violates the dignity of the human person, a very broad and subjective description that could pose problems.

Furthermore, the bill would also add article 21-A, which provides for no liability for content of blogs produced by others. In other words, those providing access to a blog for posting would not be civilly liable for damages incurred through the blogging activities of third parties. Libaility would fall to the party that created the content instead.

There are other proposed amendments, though these are the ones that most caught my attention. If you’d like to see the full text, in Portuguese, take a look at it here.


See Also:

Newspapers Are Dying in the United States, and Brazil’s Turn is Next

In 2008 I joined a startup in New York that was attempting to address the twin issues of access to content in “the deep web” as well as the revenue crisis that print media was (and still is) facing online. From there, after a few years, I found my way to Condé Nast, a major magazine publisher. During my nearly three years with that company I had a front-row seat to the dynamics of a publisher striving to adapt to a mobile, gamified, online world. Lastly, before relocating to Brazil, I spent several months as a Senior Technical Product Manager at Scholastic, the best-known publisher of books and magazines for children and teens in the United States. Again, the challenges the publishing industry has before it were crystal clear to me there. None of this experience was necessary, however, for a very simple truth to be obvious to me: Print newspapers are dying.

No, I didn’t work at any point for a newspaper. That wouldn’t be necessary for me to see what’s plainly evident. Clay Shirky said it well in a post entitled “Last Call”:

The next wave of consolidation is already upon us; big media firms like Tribune and Gannett are abandoning their newspapers (“spinning them off”, in bloodless business parlance.) If you are a journalist at a print publication, your job is in danger. Period. Time to do something about it.

This is, indeed, the current trend. Major companies are “spinning off” printed newspapers, often after saddling them with debt as a parting gift, in order to get them out of otherwise profitable portfolios. Subscriptions have diminished to almost nil. Why would anyone want a newspaper, other than to line a bird cage, cover a floor during some interior house painting or serve as packing material? There’s no way to share articles from a printed newspaper with friends unless you clip the article, and if you want to share with multiple friends you’ll need a photocopier. As for purchases, click-to-buy is much more convenient that reviewing a flyer and heading to a store.
Up to this point, everything I’ve said here is old news (pardon any pun) to people in North America. Books are moving to Kindle, news has been online for a long time, and dead tree publishing – newspapers in particular – is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Yet, for however obvious this may be elsewhere in the world, Brazil continues to live a different reality. 
In Brazil there is still a relatively strong demand for newspapers. People subscribe or pick up copies at local newsstands. They are useful for finding jobs, learning what’s going on in the world and, yes, lining bird cages. At the same time, I’m seeing more and more people with smartphones in their hands. As I noted recently, the number of Brazilian teens using the Internet via smartphones more than doubled in 2013. The most popular site seems to be Facebook, and a very popular app here right now is WhatsApp. News and entertainment is now digital and mobile, and the print industry should take note.
The trouble is, I don’t see adequate concern and action on the part of many publishers in Brazil. The local newspaper here in Uberlândia, for example, has a website that looks like something from 2009, not 2014. I have made a list of bugs and lacking features that could keep their designers and developers busy for a couple of very intense years (if they want to see the list, they’ll need to hire me!). The parent company of this same newspaper also produces hefty phone books and yellow pages that are becoming less-and-less relevant.
This is a great time to be working online in Brazil, if you can find the right company. Forget innovation…just create world-class websites and online services and you’ll be ahead of the curve here. Do adaptive/responsive to make sure that mobile is right first and foremost, and put your content alongside ads in an experience that is engaging and engrossing. A lot of work? Yes. There’s no mystery to it though.

See Also:

The 1st Project Management Seminar in the Triângulo Mineiro and Alto Paranaíba

Last Monday I walked into the language school where I teach in downtown Uberlândia and immediately noticed a new poster on the bulletin board. It was promoting “The 1st Project Management Seminar in the Triângulo Mineiro and Alto Paranaíba.” I was thrilled to see an event like this would be coming to the city, until I noticed the date: 23 August 2014. That was less than a week away! I checked out the website for the event and the news wasn’t any better. I’d completely missed the early bird rate, and so would have to pay double to attend. Worst still, I had pretty inflexible commitments that Saturday morning. Had I known a couple of weeks earlier I could have gotten the lower rate and also changed my morning plans.

Now what?

By the following day I discovered that not only was the language school where I work a sponsor of the event, as such it had access to a number of seats to the event. Being the only project manager on the teaching staff, I had no trouble gaining access. By Friday the matter was settled. Although I had to miss the morning sessions due to my other engagements, I had the pleasure of participating in the three afternoon sessions.

Ivo Michalick speaking on emotional intelligence and leadership.

The first afternoon talk was more entertaining than anything else. Jerônimo Junior came out dressed as a prize fighter and gave a very amusing talk about handling stress. He was followed by Hayala Curto, who gave us a summary of the various project management certifications available. Although most of it was well-known to me, I was interested to hear that those with the PMP certification can now sit for the Prince2 Practitioner test without having to do the Foundation level first. The days events concluded with a talk by Ivo Michalick on emotional intelligence and leadership.

Through this event I learned that project managers in Uberlândia have a regular monthly meeting, called “Quinta do GP.” As I really miss attending professional meetings, something I did on a weekly basis in Manhattan, I’ll be glad to set aside time to attend this gathering as time and commitments permit.