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Blog Entries Poverty Sermons

Beastly Economics & King's Vision for the Poor People's Campaign

“…we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing‐oriented” society to a “person‐oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered…True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice, which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth…A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

—Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Beyond Vietnam” (April 1967)

This is a sermon I gave at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greensboro on 2020-01-19.

Today, I want to talk to you about two things that may at first seem unrelated – Martin Luther King and the Mark of the Beast from the book of Revelation.

I know the concept of the Mark of the Beast has been greatly misused, misinterpreted, and misaligned by Christians over the years, but before you crawl out of your skin or run out give me a few seconds to try and show you why it has been misinterpret it so badly.

As you’ve already heard this morning, I’ve been researching and writing on the book of Revelation for sometime and have just published a book on the subject called, “Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation.”

My argument is that we need to reject the “evacuation theology,” (ht Rob Bell) version of Revelation. You know the one where people in the church says, “Who cares, it’s all going to burn anyway, and we – the people who are on the right side of this theology – are going to escape.”

Revelation interpreted this way is a text used to predict not only some future trauma, violence, and scapegoating of those the elect deem wicked.

If you follow the path of an “evacuation theology” interpretation then you can displace the Mark of the Beast into some future person or technology, a chip, a credit card, a country’s leader (usually some other country’s leader), etc. All we need to do is identify whoever has the mark and then we’ll know they’re a bad guy or are doing bad things. But this makes it way to easy to dismiss what it is actually saying.

I see Revelation being about how a marginalized group of faithful people were being guided to resist the Roman Empire at the end of the first century. It had nothing to do with evacuation theology and everything to do with resisting, surviving, and not assimilating into empire. Here you the early church made up predominately of Jewish and Gentile Christians living under Roman occupation. As Jews, as Christians, as the poor, they were themselves the marginalized. And Revelation tells them that God is with them, God is on their side, and that their work was to resist empire and follow God no matter the cost.

This is a very different reading of Revelation that what we’re used to isn’t it?

If we look back at it then, the Mark of the Beast is not about a little birthmark or an implanted chip, it is a critique of an entire economic system that is set to exploit the many for the benefit of a few. Revelation is unveiling and critiquing the economics of empire, arguing that it is out of alignment with what God intends for the world. In fact, Revelation 13 mostly uses the language of “image of the beast,” rather than “mark” to say that these kinds of imperial systems try to make people into its own image. To be make in the image of the beast is something extremely different than to be made in the image of God.

As it says in Chapter 13:

15 those who would not worship the image of the beast [would] be slain. 16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark…

Rev. 13 is an ancient critique of an economic system that is based on exploitation, one that is far-reaching and impacts everyone, and one that is opposed to how God intended the world to work.

Unless you go along with the “beastly economics of empire” you will not have the right to buy and sell, and are liable to be killed.

Credit http://kairoscenter.org/

Beastly Economics in our Day and Age

Let’s turn now to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. If you’ll go back with me to March 18, 1968. On that day, King visited Marks, Mississippi. There he witnessed devastating poverty. Marks was at that time located in the poorest county in the country and what King witnessed there moved him to tears. While touring Marks, he witnessed school children who had nothing more than one slice of an apple and a couple crackers to eat all day and other children without basic needs like shoes. It is well-chronicled that King wept as he walked through the streets of Marks.

You know it is beastly economics when Children living in the richest country in the world go without basic necessities.

A couple days later he announced what he called the Poor People’s Campaign saying:

“We’re coming to Washington in a poor people’s campaign. I was in Marks, Miss., the other day, which is in Quitman County, the poorest county in the United States. And I tell you I saw hundreds of black boys and black girls walking the streets with no shoes to wear.”

How A Mule Train From Marks, Miss., Kicked Off MLK’s Poor People Campaign

The Poor People’s Campaign was to be a fusion of the poor in this country across race lines; people caravanning across the country to setup camp on the Mall in DC and create a city they called “Resurrection City.” There they would form a committee of 100 people to lobby for an economic Bill of Rights with five planks, including:

  • “A meaningful job at a living wage”
  • “A secure and adequate income” for all those unable to find or do a job
  • “Access to land” for economic uses
  • “Access to capital” for poor people and minorities to promote their own businesses
  • Ability for ordinary people to “play a truly significant role” in the government

King knew that beastly economics needed to be challenged, resisted, and corrected. He understood that underlying the creation America’s economic system was slave labor that has persisted and disadvantaged those without previous access to wealth and power (Via Wikipedia).

Signified in that visit to Marks, Mississippi, King realized that Civil Rights could not be fully secured until they were able to take on a Human Rights lens.

In one place he said:

“What good does it do to be able to eat at a lunch counter if you can’t buy a hamburger.”

And In another he remarked:

“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power.”

King understood something very deep about our own country: we can pay lip-service to “rights” for some while blocking equality in other spheres of our society.

In other words, one of the ways our underlying philosophy and commitment to beastly economics as a country shows up in who and how we prioritize our spending.

In his sermon at Riverside Church, “Beyond Vietnam” he critiques war just not on grounds of non-violence, he critiques war based on the underlying racism and economics that fund wars.

“A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth…A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

It was this turn towards a critique of beastly economics, and the threat of uplifting the voices of the poor that ultimately got King assassinated.

To resist empire out of faithfulness to something bigger, something more generous and loving, something more universal will always be dangerous.

My Friend, and bible scholar from the Kairos Center at Union Theological Center, Colleen Wessell-McCoy once pointed out that there are many ways to think about poverty (see an interview I did with Colleen on this subject here):

Poverty comes by way of an accident (it is no one’s fault, the system is basically fair); it comes through bad behaviors and bad choices (remember those unjustly labelled “welfare queens”); it is destiny, spiritual, even to be desired (Why take away someone’s destiny?).

But Rev. Dr. King, a pastor in the black church stood in the biblical prophetic tradition alongside the book of Revelation, understanding that there is another way to understand the origins of poverty and that is that poverty is systemic.

Poverty is the result not of a broken system, but of a system that is working. Poverty is the result of beastly economics (see Taking the Widow’s Mite: Economics from A Christian Perspective).

Building the Multitude

King knew that one had to resist this reality of beastly economics as though it were the only one possible, and instead bring people together across racial and class lines, empowering the poor to bring about the changes necessary.

King stood in a long line of actors and agents challenging “the religion of empire” and worked towards building what he called the beloved community and what Revelation calls “The Multitude,” one rooted in a vision of abundance for all people and all creation.

For our part today – what does it mean to be of this multitude, to be a people of love, goodness, goodwill and faith, willing to follow God in the face of empire no matter the cost?

King, in the Poor People’s campaign, reignited this prophetic thread and that work is not done yet.

How might we honor King’s challenge to us to have a revolution of values that touches all aspects of our lives?

How might we honor King, in this long thread of prophetic witness against systems that creates economic conditions that are so harmful to human flourishing, and instead work to build the multitude.

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Blog Entries

A Five Week Series on the Book of Revelation

I’m looking forward to leading a 5-week series on Revelation & my book “Resting Empire.” We started this past Sunday at First Friends Meeting here in Greensboro. If you’re close by and interested in joining is, you are welcome.

We will be covering these topics:

  • Quaker and Liberation ways of reading the Bible. How our social location and identities (ie. race, gender, class, sexuality and abilities) impact how we read the text and how it reads us. The social location of Revelation and the Bible and how that impacts how we understand what it is about.
  • The religion of creation and the religion of empire. How Empires use scapegoats to build social cohesion and Jesus as the final scapegoat, proving once for all that “the scapegoat is innocent.”
  • Imperial economics vs. how God gives a preferential option for the poor
  • How liturgy is used within Empire as well as within communities of resistance and what kinds of liturgy build up our resolve and witness against empire.
  • We will dig into the concept of the multitude not just as a nice “all inclusive” vision – which I think it is also that- of humanity but also how Revelation’s conception of the Multitude actually means to center all the victims of empire.
  • And if there’s time: the role of the earth and animals and creation within the resistance to Empire and God’s moral imagination for what is possible.

I’m convinced that a liberatory reading of Revelation is going to be a key tool for persistence, resistance, and community building in the years to come as we see American Civil Christianity continue to grasp for imperial power and ultimately fail. I believe that Revelation is not only a text about how to resist the empire, it is what it looks like for the church to refuse “Christian supremacy.”

If you’re in town and this is of interest join us this Sunday. If not and you want to see if this reading can be of use to you and your community here is the link to my book.

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Blog Entries DIY Reviews

Activities For New Year's Eve

When we had the idea of throwing a small gathering at our house for New Year’s Eve, we did the initial planning around food and drinks, the traditional (for us) stuff: pork, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, etc. But not one to want to do just the expected things, I talked to Emily about coming up with new activities like we did last year for the gathering. I think it probably says something about my personality that I feel like if we’re gonna have people come together we should do something creative and meaningful, as if talking, connecting, eating isn’t enough!

Reflecting on the Decade

I had the idea to do some kind of decade timeline, but it was Emily’s idea to wed the decade reflection with Godly Play-esque questions. These two things came together well and so we decided to make this the main activity for the evening. It seemed like a good opportunity to invite reflection with friends on the decade, so we laid out some brown packing paper, added dates, and lines, and some questions on the dining room table.

Here’s what it looked like:

We added questions on index cards to prompt reflection for this “Decade in Review.”

  1. You favorite moments and events
  2. Important changes, accomplishments, failures, and losses
  3. Landmarks for human history
  4. What could you do without?

The results were pretty fantastic. Our guests dropped in and out, adding favorite memories, babies being born, moving to Greensboro, weddings and more. It was nice to see how the timeline shaped up with some of our friends, but it was also interesting to see how this then became a conversation piece, prompting people to ask questions and notice things.

Individual Reflections for the New Year

We had other, more personal, activities written on index cards and sitting out on the table for folks to engage with (shown above). These activities were based off of ones we did last year. We set out a bunch of different art supplies, magazines, cardboard, etc. so that folks could craft and engage with the activities as they saw fit. Here are those prompts:

  1. Write a letter to someone you want to thank for being their for you or write a letter to your future self
  2. Get rid of something
  3. Pick a word or theme for 2020
  4. Create a deck of cards: use images, quotes, words, affirming you in the coming year
  5. Make blackout poetry (with pages from One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)

Not everyone did the activities, which was fine, but it was nice to have these out as an option and I noticed many people tried at least one thing. It helped to break up the conversations, time, and it created some opportunities for some great storytelling. And if nothing else, we had a good time.

Here was a card a friend left behind for us.

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Blog Entries

A Call to Work Outside Our Circles – Friends Journal Article

The Marriage of William Penn and Hannah Callowhill, 1696. Ernest Board (1877–1934). @ commons.wikimedia.org.

In this month’s Friends Journal, I have a little piece in response to the NY Times article from Teresa M. Bejan, “What Quakers Can Teach Us About the Politics of Pronouns.” That article is useful and made its rounds on the Quaker Internet pretty thoroughly. If you haven’t seen it, I recommend you read it. My piece is less a direct response to the points she makes about pronouns, I support the use of inclusive pronouns and even the alternative “Friend” in place of a pronoun, that Peterson Toscano has suggested elsewhere and that the Public Universal Friend utilized.

I was more interested in the Quaker response to the article, as described here:

As readers of this blog, I think you will enjoy both the New York Times article and the Friends Journal response.

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Blog Entries DIY Living Well Reviews

Are You Ready to Do Your Annual Review? Here Are Some Tips and Resources

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

As we round out the end of 2019 and the last of this decade, there’s no better time than now to reflect on the past and think about goals and priorities you want to have for the coming year(s). When I think about the connection between work and productivity and my spiritual practice, setting time aside for recalibration, deeper reflection, and prayer are really important to me. I have time set aside for my own reflection coming up. As I get into the mindset and consider how I can take some time to look back not only at the last year but also at the last decade, I’ve begun looking for materials and resources to draw on when I do this work.

Here’s a round-up of resources and ideas that you can use as you create your own plan.

1. Step-by-Step Process for Conducting An Annual Review

First and foremost, here is my post from two years ago on “Conducting an Annual Review.” In this post, I walk you through how to structure the annual review, tools you’ll need, some key questions, and more. This is the basic process I will be using this year, though I always adapt it some.

Here’s an excerpt: This was my first time doing an annual review after really designing a system of project management like we did in Building a Second Brain. I wasn’t quite sure what to do, and I did it before reading “The Annual Review is a Rearchitecture,” but I knew I wanted three components:

  • Enough time away to get into a reflective and prayerful space
  • Time to reflect back over all the projects, accomplishments, failures, learnings that took place.
  • Time to build out my goals and vision for the coming year

📝 See: Conducting an Annual Review

2. New Year’s Eve Review Activities – Fun for a Crowd!

If you want to get super nerdy – because why not – we came up with seven New Year’s activities we put out for our NYE party last year and we had a great time.

Here’s an excerpt:

  • Pick a word for the year
  • Create a personal vision board for 2019
  • Get rid of something – write something down from 2018 that you want to get rid of, tear it up, and throw it away. This was an idea from E.M., our 9-year-old, and I thought it was pretty fantastic.
  • Create a deck of cards

📝 See: Seven New Year’s Eve Activities and End of the Year Reflections

3. Books That Can Help With an Annual Review

How to Not Always Be Working by Marlee Grace – An amazing book about taking care of yourself, complete with reviews, and other exercises for you to use in your own reflections.

Keep Going 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon – A great book about self-care and how to remain creative, especially when you’re not feeling creative.

Essentials of the Enneagram by Dr. David Daniels – As a part of my review, I like to look back and review my number on the Ennegram and review the growing edges and gifts of that number.

4. Some Key Resources for Helping Practice An Annual Review

David Allen’s article on “Horizon’s of Focus,” a great perspective on laying out goals, priorities, projects, and tasks for the coming year. 📝 Download the .PDF here

Praxis Blog from Tiago Forte: The Annual Review is a Rearchitecture and Tiago’s Annual Review Course if you’re looking to spend a little money but go deeper into all of this. As a graduate of two of Tiago’s courses, I can vouche for the quality of these courses, though I haven’t taken this new one.

Shawn Blanc’s Plan Your Year is another good looking and less expensive option that comes with some cool tools you can use for planning. Shawn’s work is also high quality and takes into account mindfulness and intention behind all we do. I’ve taken a couple of Blanc’s courses as well and feel good about recommending this one (I’m seriously considering joining this course).

My friend Fernando Gros has lots of great creative stuff on his blog but here are two where he walks through how to do yearly planning and how to set up annual themes.

Focused Podcast: The Annual Check-In – A work and productivity with a priority towards mindfulness and focus. David Sparks and Mike Schmitz cover their process for personal check-ins.

Jason Shen of Better Humans: How to Run Your Own Annual Review


Ways to Connect with Wess: If you like this post and/or have feedback you think I should know about feel free to connect with me on Twitter and Telegram @cwdaniels or subscribe via email by clicking here.

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Blog Entries Reviews

2019 – Year in Photos

Photo Descriptions

From Left to Right, Top to Bottom

  1. Living in Greensboro means that we are closer to family and we get to see cousins a lot more. This year we got to celebrate Halloween with my sister Steffanie’s family.
  2. Went to Philadelphia a couple times this year, a highlight for me was being at a leadership conference.
  3. I have been listening to a lot of tech show and Apple podcasts, which is both nerdy and fun, but also having an impact on my efficiency and work. This is an image of my current office setup complete with a standing desk. (Podcasts: MacPower Users, Upgrade, Automators and Connected)
  4. Emily and I celebrated 18 years of marriage and 20 years of friendship and love this August.
  5. In October I turned 41.
  6. Made a bunch of new friends in Greensboro who are religious leadership during an Interfaith Clergy Trip this past year.
  7. Went to Indiana to celebrate the wedding of my good friend and fellow Fuller grad, Dr. Jamie Pitts.
  8. I got to meet Dr. Janette Coleman during Guilford’s commencement this year.
  9. My kids found a sign with my name of it! 😉 This was a sign set out in front of Scuppernong Books for my Book Release party for my book, Resisting Empire.
  10. I went to England to support one of my students who presented at a Quaker Studies Conference a great paper on her research she’s doing at Guilford. I also presented on some new research I am working on.
  11. Did I mention my new book, Resisting Empire, was released!
  12. Saw my uncle and other family who live in Arizona after 25 years!
  13. Co-taught a 3-week class on Food and Faith that was moving, and a lot of fun.
  14. Launched the Fireweed Coffee Cold Brew recipe to great fanfare this summer.
  15. I participate in an 8-month Executive Director Academy with the Center for Creative Leadership this past year that was an incredible opportunity, pushed me in my thinking around leadership, and helped me feel more confident in my work.
  16. Trip to the Smoky Mountains with cousins!
  17. In August, my buddy and I rode bikes up to the Blue Ridge Mountains, but we never made it. I watched him go down on his bike. Thankfully, he was okay, albeit badly bruised and banged up.
  18. Emily and I went to Louisville, KY to visit Bourbon Country and spend time with some good friends. This was seriously one of the best highlights of the year. My favorite of all the distilleries we toured was Rabbit Hole.
  19. We vacationed in Beaufort, NC this year and loved every moment of it. This is a photo of Emily on a boat headed out to the beach at Cape Lookout.
  20. Purchased a new roaster, the Aillio Bullet R1, for Fireweed Coffee Co.
  21. The kids all started their 4th school year in Greensboro. L is now in 6th, M is in 4th, and C is in 2nd. This is the photo we’ve been doing each year since we moved to Greensboro.
  22. I married my sister Catrina at the end of 2018 but L and M loved being flower girls and I wanted to share this!
  23. C at the Over The Rhine Nowhere Else festival in Ohio. We loved it and can’t wait to go back.
  24. That time Westboro Baptist came to protest the college you work at and you are responsible to coordinate the response.
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Blog Entries

An Open Letter to Fuller Seminary Expressing My Sadness and Disappointment For The Expulsion of a Lesbian Student

Recently, I learned with a deep sadness, after reading the LA Times article, that Joanna Maxon was expelled because of her same-sex marital status. I was surprised this was the position the Seminary took, not because it isn’t known that it has anti-LGBTQ stances, but because the action against a student in this way seems outside of the Gospel of Grace as I know it; moreover, this action does not reflect what I know Fuller to be capable of. As an alumnus of the Seminary, I feel compelled to write to say how disappointed I am in this decision and, more basically, that such a policy even exists. I plead with you to change this policy, and welcome a new era of theological reflection that includes all of God’s people.

I made my own journey from an anti-LGBTQ stance to one of affirmation and inclusion, performing the first same-sex wedding in my Quaker Yearly Meeting, being fired from an Evangelical seminary for advocating on the behalf of a transgendered student, and doing my dissertation research on the first queer-led Christian Quaker church in history. Within a few years of beginning my studies in 2003, I built on the tools I learned from the Fuller Seminary faculty, moving to a position of being open to and affirming of all who fall outside of heteronormative and cis-gendered identities. I know that I am not the only student, staff, and faculty member who has made similar moves as a result of being at Fuller and experiencing God’s grace there.

And yet, here we are, taking a stance against a student and expelling her because of what is a rebarbative policy. Policy can be changed. And when it goes against what is right and good in the eyes of God, policy should be broken. We have come to a time in history in which positioning ourselves on the side of heteronormativity and patriarchy causes deep spiritual violence. As Christians we must always stand on the side of love. Historically, Fuller has had a commitment to love, holding a position within the theological world that is broad and deep, welcoming of diverse experiences, languages, and convictions. It is a space where students are given the freedom to explore God, biblical teachings, divergent theologies, and contemporary spiritualities within a container that remains committed to Jesus. This Generous Orthodoxy is how I understand what it means to stand on the side of love above the law. I benefited from this experience and I wish that others, such as Joanna Maxon can as well, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, ability, and class. If you want to apprentice yourself to the Christian tradition Fuller should be a place where this can happen.

There are so many of us that want this for Ms. Maxon and others who are now threatened by this kind of policy and the sentiment that underwrites it. I want these students to know that there are those who support them and believe that actions like these do not reflect the God we know.

My hope is that Fuller will overtime eradicate these policies that do not reflect the teachings of the gospels, the table fellowship of Jesus, and the realities of God at work in our culture and world today.

My hope is that Fuller could witness to the Gospel in how it treats its own student body and community.

My hope is that Fuller can challenge Christian supremacy in a world that has suffered enough spiritual violence at the hands of Christians.

Know that I, for one, support the seminary in undergoing the work of God in this way and I know that I am not alone in this.

Prayers for growth and grace in this movement,

C. Wess Daniels, Ph.D.

William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College

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More on the Coffee Front

As you know, I’m a big coffee fan. I have been for a long time but then it became a much bigger part of our lives when I started up a small coffee roasting business. I have been doing that for over a year now and am loving the work of learning how to roast and sharing that with folks in our community here in Greensboro. But to take it a step further, I’ve decided to start a coffee blog about my various travels and the coffee shops I visit and enjoy. I am calling this blog: The Coffee Path. Check it out. And if you’re into simple coffee reviews and recommendations, you can subscribe at the bottom of the webpage.

Thanks for reading!

Wess

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Bag of Tricks Blog Entries

Using Evernote to Find A Good Everyday Carry Backpack

If you know me well, you know I like bags. Backpacks, briefcases, canvas bags, “hip sacks,” you name it. I’ve been known to hunt for a good sale, or clearance item to fill a bag need. For instance, I’ve had more than one Timbuktu bag in the last 15 years that I bought from Sierra Trading Post at a steep discount. More recently, I had a slight obsession with finding the perfect “Everyday Carry” bag for work. I spent a decent amount of time researching all the latest bags on the market, Goruck, Evergoods, Aer, Incase, eBags, PRVKE, Nomatic, and more. Through this research it became very obvious to me that following blogs like Carryology, and learning about bag materials, makers, eco-friendly alternatives, techie components is a serious guilty pleasure for me; that I’m here admitting it to the internet is another thing! But, I did a lot of research into some of the most recent and really cool everyday carry bags and I wanted to share it here in case there are any other bag nerds lurking nearby.

Here’s what I did and what I learned.

Using Evernote, my preferred notetaking app, I surfed the internet using the search engine DuckDuckGo and captured all the bags I found interesting into Evernote (using the Webclipper) and then created a table of contents of all those “notes” into one master note titled “Backpack Table of Contents.”

Evernote Research Note

After that, I created a list with everything I wanted/needed in a bag. I took some time prior to take notes of things I was looking for in a bag over the course of a few weeks, but then I summarized the key components into a list. I turned that list into a table in Evernote at the botton of that same note (see picture below). Evernote makes it really easy to make nice-looking, quick tables.

Next, I began reading and searching for all the bags I could find on the market that were being recommended by reviewers. There’s a whole Everyday Carry community online where I found many of these reviews . If you’re interested, two great places to get started are Carryology and Everday Carry. Then, as I found a bag of interest, I added it with the webclipper to my “backpack” folder in Everynote. At this point, I wasn’t necessarily doing deep research, I’m just skimming, trying to see what is the basic landscape, what is the language that people use to talk about different compartments and features, what are the materials, etc.

From there, I created a Table of Contents out of all of those different notes that went at the top of this one research note. Looking at the image above all those numbered items are the result of that Table of Contents. Those are each separate notes you can select and go into. The reason I did it this way rather than directly linking to each website from this note is largely because this is more expedient, capturing something with webclipper, then selecting 10 notes and hitting “create table of contents” and its done. No typing, no back and forth between various sites to get links, copying and pasting, etc.

The fourth step in this process was to narrow down my results and begin populating my table. I started with the the top bags that I thought would come closest to what I was looking for and began adding them to my chart. I’d add an image of the bag, the name, the cost, a link to it’s note or webpage, and then I would work my way down the checklist (to the left) of features I wanted/needed. This took a little time but it was fun andreally helped me to sort out what I was looking for, and disaggregate the important from the preferred. Here is how the note began to take shape.

Summary of Key Findings

What did I learn from this process? It’s hard to find a bag with everything you want in it. This is probably why many people have more than one! There are so many options out there and so many differences between them. As you can see from my research there are some that come very close to having what I want, but then they’re missing one or two key features, or the material they use isn’t great. But really my main takeaway is that there is no one perfect bag for everyone’s needs.

Second, a bag with a lot of opinions about how you use it is not for me. While I had all kinds of things I thought I wanted in a bag, it turns out that what I really want is one that is easy to pack and unpack, and can be used with different packing cubes, and other organization things.

A third is material really really matters. Scuffing, cleaning, zippers, etc. I bought one bag that I thought I’d really like, the Aer, and it looked really nice but the material had me contantly concerned that I was going to scuff it up. Add that to the fact that it had tons of pockets but not of them really fit with what I needed and I decided to return in.

Conclusion

After all of this, I ended up staying with the bag I already had, a Goruck backpack and adding some more organizational features like the Field Pocket, which offers plenty of extra pockets, uses the upper space on the inside of the bag nicely, and ties into the MOLLE straps inside the bag to (see the top photo). Add that extra little organizational feature gave it everything I needed, and I can take the Field Pocket out when I want to use my Goruck for overnight travel which I often do. In the end, I enjoyed learning more about all these different bags, how they’re manufactured, etc. and using Evernote to help distill down all that information into something useful.

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Bag of Tricks Blog Entries The Technological

Using DuckDuckGo for Search

DuckDuckGo Search Enging Homepage

If you have used an Internet browser (ever) and searched something through google.com you’re not alone, many of us are so accustomed to Google search that the word Google has become a verb. But why stick with something just because it’s habit when there is something way cooler out there?

If you haven’t tried out DuckDuckGo out yet for your searches, start with your web browser. DuckDuckGo has been around since 2008 and has made its name on being “the search engine that doesn’t track you.” That’s what got me interested. It seems, according to this article in Forbes, that others are having a similar feeling; search queries on DDG have grown considerably since 2013.

I am probably medium-weird about privacy – not totally lax but not completely freaked out either. But Google, Facebook, and Amazon are notoriously terrible for tracking and spying on users and using that data for not great stuff. We are now living in a data economy, this stuff isn’t going away, so rather than pretend it doesn’t happen, I think it’s time to figure out what you are and are not willing to give up to big data. Your web search history which is incredibly personal is one great place to start. Go ahead. Try it out.

Not so bad, huh?

If you like it you can read more about their privacy policies here and take a privacy crash course here.

So if you like it and you want to use it all the time, what next?

The next thing to do is to open your browser settings and switch the default search engine.

For those of you on Safari: Go to preferences, then search and select DDG from the pull-down menu.

For those of you on Firefox: Go to preferences, then select search from the sidebar.

If you’re using Chrome you can install DDG as well, but then again, using Chrome means your data is leaking back to Google in other ways. Browsers like Safari, Firefox, and Brave are good places to go if you’re wanting something that has stricter privacy policies.

If you are medium-weird like me you can replicate this process on your smartphone and tablets so that you have DDG everywhere. Here is a good place to start with doing that.

A couple really useful features to try out with DuckDuckGo

Search time in DDG and you can open multiple times for projects you’re working on. I love this!

DuckDuckGo has something called !bangs which are basically shortcuts to bigger searches. So instead of typing in Wikipedia and then going to that webpage and searching for your item you can type !w + your search term and DDG will take you right to that page on Wikipedia. You can do this with Amazon, Twitter, Yelp and tons more.

You can also do math in the search bar or use the calculator. Trust me, I use this one a lot.

It also has a maps feature that uses Apple Maps (which also don’t track) and Yelp built-in.

Finally, if this isn’t enough you can go much deeper with Brett Terpstra’s posts on how to “Learn the syntax of DuckDuckGo” – Link

To me, it may seem a minor thing, but by using DDG for all my searches and using a browser like Firefox or Safari, I’ve already made two steps towards being in better control of my data and privacy. In this day and age, this will be part of what we have to pay attention to. I’m glad for services like DDG for making this as painless as possible.

Update:

A reader pointed out that I didn’t give my opinion about the search results. The short answer is, I am very satisfied with the results. In fact, I unplugged from google search so long ago that I don’t even think about search results at this point, nor do I compare them. Everything seems to work as it should. That’s not to say I shouldn’t check from time to time but I just don’t even think about it anymore.

This runs into another important way that DDG is different from google, as it says on its Wikipedia page, it helps you “avoid the filter bubble of personalized search results.” DDG aims to give everyone the same results, and those results, in their mind are meant to be the best result to the search query. It’s a different philosophy that underlies a different way to develop technology. In this case, I appreciate that approach and I find that it works as intended.