Tetravex Logic Puzzles on Martin Luther King, Jr Day

I decided to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. this year by spending most of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Twitter. Let me tell you how and why I did this.

First I used the free service Your Twitter Karma to find out which of the people I follow had not tweeted in more than 60 days. I unfollowed most of those people. The reason I needed to do that is that my daytime job is at a public library. I'm paid by taxpayers to be informed. I need to focus my time and energy on those people who are informing me so that I can better pass along that knowledge to the people who pay my salary. People depend upon me to be "in the know." I cannot let them down. If you're not tweeting, you're not informing me.

Then I browsed through some of the new followers of FOSS (free and open source software) tweeters I admire to find some new people to follow. Christian Einfeldt, in San Francisco, has a razor-sharp mind and is a focused advocate of FOSS. Anyone who follows him is likely to be very smart in their own right, and someone I could learn from. Sure enough, I came across tweeter David Schlesinger who happens to be a member of the Advisory Board of the GNOME Foundation, whose aim is to create a free-software computing platform. So I followed him and he followed me right back. And in this way we made the world more free. How? How did we make the world more free?

In case you might not have thought about it, the free software movement is very much a part of the unfinished work of the civil rights movement. The free software movement works to expand access to the tools human beings need to live on this planet, expanding human dignity and hope for the future, building a society where people of all walks of life participate as equals, so that you don't need to be the grandson of a banker to rise in the world of business. You could rise based on the merits of your own talents. Imagine that: rising based on the merits of your own talents. Who would have the audacity to have such a vision? Martin Luther King, Jr.

By this time, some of you might be wondering why this blog post is titled, "Tetravex Logic Puzzles on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day"? Well, within Ubuntu Linux is a logic puzzle game that's visually very attractive, is a huge amount of fun, and can strengthen our minds. I recently created a Youtube screencast video explaining how to play this game.

I used a Macintosh program, Screenflow, to record my narration. (I use Ubuntu on my Macbook using VMWare Fusion.)

However, I should have used RecordMyDesktop, a free Linux program, to make this screencast. By choosing to use free tools, we advance the vision of MLK of a more inclusive society.

My new friend on Twitter, David Schlesinger, commended me on this screencast. I then spent a moment thinking what I could do to help David spread the word about these fun logic puzzles. It occurred to me that I needed to get David a copy of this screencast in the Ogg Theora video format – a free and open format that originates from no company. Ogg Theora videos play well on Ubuntu Linux without the need of any special codecs. Ogg Theora files also can be played on any computer that has Firefox 3.5 (or higher.) Built into Firefox is a media player for Ogg Theora files.

I uploaded my screencast in Ogg format (28.5 MB, 6:30 mins in duration) to the Internet Archive, which provides free unlimited Web hosting for media files. Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, envisions a world where all human beings have access to all human knowledge. I support him in that vision. Another person who supports him is Roger Cappucci, who is in his 52nd year of teaching math at Scarsdale High School in Scarsdale, New York. Brewster Kahle was one of Mr. Cappucci's students before he co-founded the company Thinking Machines. I was one of Mr. Cappucci's students before I attended Howard University School of Law, the originating location of the lawsuit Brown vs. Board of Education. That lawsuit involved a little girl named Linda Brown who was forced to ride a bus five miles each day to school, although a school for white children existed four blocks from her house.

And so my duty as an education advocate is to continue this work of the civil rights movement, work that remains largely unfinished. But I am so proud that I walk beside such people as Christian Einfeldt and Brewster Kahle and David Schlesinger and Mozilla Foundation Chair Mitchell Baker and Roger Cappucci and Steve Hargadon, who last year I nominated for a MacArthur Genius Award. Each of these people are truly remarkable.


Sometimes people tell me that Twitter is a waste of time. It sure can be if you don't have a rudder on your ship. But if you do have a rudder on your ship, Twitter can be an unsurpassed organizing tool that connects you to others building a more inclusive world. For that, I'm very grateful to the founders of Twitter.

I should also say that Twitter diminished me when it recently forced Your Twitter Karma to not allow Twitter users to unfollow in bulk. Apparently Twitter doesn't value my time, requiring me to individually unfollow people. That's okay. I've got an entire day to do MLK's work. But I say to Twitter, please restore this capability to Your Twitter Karma and please think more carefully about such actions in the future.

Each of our actions diminishes or empowers others. That idea is one of the great gifts Martin Luther King Jr. gave us. Reflect upon which of your actions diminishes or empowers others. Reflect upon what you see in this world diminishing or empowering others. Discuss these ideas with your friends, your family, and your co-workers. And then choose to walk the path or not walk the path. It's up to you.

In all things, be mindful. Be filled with mind. And then you'll honor Martin Luther King, Jr, not just one day each year, but every day of the year.

Phil Shapiro

The blogger is an educator and technology commentator in the Washington DC-area. He can be reached at philshapiroblogger@gmail.com and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/philshapiro

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