September 12, 2002

Chi, a force to reckon with

Category: Personal — Biella @ 4:56 pm

I had the funniest dream this morning between about 8 and 9 am. So, I ride my bike a lot which means I lock up my bike a lot using this very nifty and small kryptonite lock known as the Evolution 2000. I love that lock as it is small yet sturdy. You know, it doesn’t weigh down on my style :)

Anyway, I lost one of the two keys so I am always paranoid that I am going to lose the one key I have especially when my bike is locked so that I will need some super-duper tool to get the lock off. And of course this is exactly what happened in my dream. But instead of using my brute strength to wrangle the lock off or use the power of heat with a blowtorch, I simply used another key and used my own chi to make the key fit and work. It was the raddest thing in the whole world. I felt like a super-hero/sly detective. But the more ludicrous thing was that when I woke up, I did not feel like anything strange had happened. It was just like a very mundane, obvious, commonsense thing happened with my bike, lock, and chi… Speaking of which, I should probably get ready for my chi gong class, which heck, who knows, maybe one day I will be able to pick any lock with my own chi.

A morning cup of ethical tea

Category: Ethics — Biella @ 9:45 am

The readingrules reading group met on Sunday to talk about Our Posthuman Future by Francis Fukuyama, a book that is pretty maddening for its impoverished view of human ethics yet very compelling at some other level. This is somewhat a simplification but I tend to categorize non fiction books under three categories:

1.Plain dumb
2.Brilliant (and this can be for a multitude of reasons)
3.Infuriating (in a good way).

His was infuriating, but I usually find that to be a positive thing for I find myself not reading but arguing with the book. My fingers grip the pages while my eyes absorb the words and my mind races thinking of all the reasons why I don’t agree with a certain position, occasionally caving in noting that the author makes some really good points.

The book is essentially about ethics, about what it means to be human, to act morally, what guides the desire to be good, and how new genetic technologies (especially the ability to change “human nature”)will threaten the very basis of our (no, his) Ethical foundations.

First his view on ethics and nature: His basic argument is that the most sound system of ethics is one derived out of “human nature” as it then is the only way that we can have a sort of pan-universal morality that cuts across time and space and cultures.

Unfortunately, he gives a really unsatisfying rendition of human nature, basically saying that it is, well in a nutshell, “complex”, a complex mixture of our ability to acquire language, learn, reason and feel emotions:

“What is Factor X [Factor X is is awfully original code word for human nature].That is, Factor X cannot be reduced to the possession of moral choice, or reason, or language or sociability, or sentience, or emotions, or consciousness, or any other quality that has been put forth as a ground for human dignity. It is all these qualities coming together in a human whole human being that make up Factor X. Every member of of the human species possesses a genetic endowment that allows him or her to become a whole human being, an endowment that distinguishes a human in essence from other types of creatures.” P. 171

The specifities of these are addressed but in an incomplete and piecemeal way. Genetic modification has then the ability to simplify the complexity of humans and/ or make other beings like humans (and vice versa) so that the clear and demarcated boundary between human and non-human would be blurred undermining the whole basis of a morality based on a unique human nature.

OK, that is the short of it and though I do admire his desire to try to find a basis that emphasizes equality across people and know that there are serious ethical issues in the realm of bio-tech and genetics, I find any moral rendition that places the human above all else is one that well, is just not my bag of ethical tea. I am going to spare my few readers one of my longer posts because I think I can get really carried away criticizing FF but I think one of the things that is problematic is, well it is very obvious, it is so very humancentric which, for the question of “human morals” might not seem to be such a bad thing. But it does not exactly allow for a deep integration of humility which in my cup of E-Tea, is a necessary ingredient whether it is because it is an important factor for treating others with respect and dignity or whether it is an important means to treat nonhuman things well or at least with awareness of how we are treating them individually or as a society.

I have already read our next book the Hacker Crackdown, which also touches upon ethics but from a very different angle. I look forward to talking about it with a bunch of other people who will have, I am sure, passionate thoughts about it!

September 8, 2002

Oily Humor

Category: Humor — Biella @ 10:23 am

Bush is so greasy

September 7, 2002


Category: Personal — Biella @ 11:47 am

Some days creep me out. I remember one of the first times I was seriously creeped out by the world. I was in 7th grade and for some odd reason, my Spanish teacher decided to show our class a video about the life, death, and predictions of Nostradamus the clairvoyant who had a penchant for seeing and cryptically writing about the horror and gorror (new word for gory : )) of death, war, and destruction. I was around 13 years old, struggling with the gorror of my hormones that were leaving half of my hair curly, the other straight, and my body more chubby than I would have liked. And then I was confronted that the end of the world, WWIII, was right around the corner and not going to be caused by the Russians!!!. The movie was creepy and I have often wondered why the school showed a group of impressionable pre-teens a film about clairvoyance, war, and the end of the world. What sort of vision of life were they trying to inculcate in us? I mean it was kinda cool that they showed us a movie about the life of a man who does not really embody the ideals of western science like rationality and reasoned calculation, but that movie did creep me out.

Reading the newspaper, which I don’t do all that often creeped me out too. I was already in a weird mood, spending the whole morning trying to figure out how to renew my passport so that I could indeed leave the country at the end of the month. So at the gym, where I occasionally pick up the left over SF Chronicles to see what the mainstream media is sharing with (and how it is shaping the) American public. No huge surprises but there are times when the news really leaves me worn and wasted for many many different reasons. Bush is moving ahead at least ideologically with his desire for war while the response from the Arab leaders is that “War would open the gates of hell” and yet Bush’s desire I bet still burns stronger. At least there has been a decent amount of open criticism from mainstream politicians and journalists although to frame it as a danger to national oil access, which some have done, is to miss the point entirely of why it is just wrong, bad, for us to go to war. There was one piece of commentary I did liked which was one by our most smiley president, Jimmy Carter .

Then there were a series of articles about our health and healthcare in our country. The cost of healthcare is rising. We are witnessing its largest increase since 1990 (while the economy is spiraling) and in the backdrop of a National Academy of Sciences huge (though not very surprising) report basically outlining new dietary guidelines. Guidelines that the American public for the most part is not even close to following, which is one of the reasons that so many people have whacked out chronic illnesses, which is one of the reasons why healthcare is so expensive. A leisurely stroll through an American supermarket does not make me too hopeful about the nutrition revolution I would so love to see this country go (though there have been some positive reorientations towards health and nutrition for sure).

Night time is when creepiness can turn into extreme creepiness. But thankfully, my night ended with a not-so-creepy-visit to the Alameda County Computer Resource Centerto help out with the getting many Linux boxes set up to send to Ecuador. The place is rad, a huge meandering warehouse exploding at the seams with computer equipment that looks sort of dead but is brought back to life by the staff to exist once again in all parts of the country and world. They had a PDP-11 which I made sure to touch with great respect as it is one of the pieces of machinery, that well, spawned and help form hacker cultural communities, which was the whole reason I was even in the Bay Area that night, having a great time despite the creepiness of the day!

September 5, 2002

The Freedom to Pedal

Category: Politics — Biella @ 11:03 am

I think a lot about freedom these days. The whole reason I am here living here in San Francisco is to study the freedom-loving-hackers who are bringing civlization to its knees [hehe]. So, I talk about it with people, think about it, and occasionally feel it.

Lately, this feeling of freedom has come from my escapades biking whether I go on ride with friends or as I struggle to get to all the places I need to go to. I got rid of my car, luna, a 1978 yellow Toyota Celica when I moved to the Mission and have relied on my bike and/or public transportation to get around. So, in the last two days, I have been able to make it “on time” to my various meetings thanks largely the two B’s: bart and my bike.

On Tuesday I used my bike and bart to get to the east bay where I met with
Nicolas from Berkeley who is working on some really cool software to help map out the relationship between code and people and people and people on free software projects, software that was inspired by the book
Science in Action written by the wacky and loveable sociologist of science, Bruno Latour. I then rushed back to SF to work at the EFF spending my usual Tuesday nights with a group of EFF and OPG volunteers.

On Wed, I went back to Berkeley on Bart to meet an Apache and Debian developer,
David W who is an avid cyclist, lucky enough to have lived in Italy for many years to pedal around the beautiful hills of the Italian countryside. I then had to get back to SF to meet with my Chi Gong teacher to practice, talk technique, and of course Gong that Chi. I honestly did not think that I would make it in time as I got distracted on irc (surprise surprise) but I was able to pull myself just in time to pedal swiftly and make it, albeit sweaty, to his house.

Biking feels free and is a form of freedom. You freely race down the hills as fast as you can go, you can bust past cars stuck in traffic (and smile righteously), you can pick new routes. You are free to move how you would like to. To bike frees you from the headaches of tickets, gasoline, parking, insurance bills that come along with owning a car. And there is nothing like biking for days and days knowing that you got from one city to another with just your legs, some passion, and a nice piece of technology. Biking adds some freedom to the world in general, lessining the envrionmental impact on our earth and our entrenched dependance on oil which has caused one heck of a lot of violence and turmoil in our world. This sticker that I found on
laughingmeme captures the darker underbelly of our oil consumption.

Biking to commute is thus as much of a political act as voting. But unfortunately as individuals residing with a larger society, we are not entirely free to make the choice of totally relying on bikes and public transportation for our mobility. There are some serious structural constraints to “choosing” to communte soley by PT and bikes, mostly due to the spatial organization of our society that is clogged with suburbs many of which don’t have any lifelines to public transportation or only have very slow moving ones making it nearly impossible to rely on public transporation. So, if one can use a bike or public transportation, wonderful… I hope that more and more people will individually do their part and get their booty on the bike or on the train if it is so possible. Otherwise more collective, organized action is needed to make sure that structurally, people can individually have the freedom to choose to commute in a more envrionmentally sound way…..

September 4, 2002

Your vision of hell

Category: Personal — Biella @ 10:39 pm

What is your visions of HELL.

MInd would be one in which I had to fill out charts all day long while trying to get a handle on the ins and outs of my health insurance (why is my schools basic coverage like $1100 while the comprehensive is a whopping $1700). It would be a place where I would fast for like a couple of days, then eat raw food for like 3, then fast again, then go raw (you get the point, an endless loop). I would be barred from bikining or gonging that chi.

Well, ha, back to my charts!!!!

pedal revolution

Category: Politics — Biella @ 11:05 am

This gives new meaning to Pedal Revolution : )

Pedal Power: Look Ma No Wires:

An innovative, pedal powered, wireless network provides Internet access to off-grid villages in Laos.

Jhai PC is a project of non-government organisation (NGO), Jhai Foundation.

“The equipment will be powered by electricity stored in a car battery charged by ‘foot cranks’,” Lee Thorn, Jhai Foundation chair, explains. These “are essentially bicycle wheels and pedals hooked to a small generator. The generator is connected to a car battery and the car battery is connected to the computer.”

“Connection with each computer to the others will be by radio local area network (LAN),” he says. “Each village will connect to one repeater station powered by a solar means on the ridge near the river valley. That station will then send the radio signal to the microwave tower nearby and eventually to a server in Vientiane that will connect the villages to the Internet.

September 3, 2002

Category: Personal — Biella @ 10:57 pm

Life comes into being without any invitation of our own: we suddenly finds ourselves in it. And as soon as we recognize ourselves as alive we become aware that we tend toward inevitable death. If we do not gain some adequate understanding of our life and our death, during the life-span that is ours, our life will become nothing but a querulous refusal, a series of complaints that it must end in death. Then the fear of death becomes so powerful that it results in the flat refusal of life….. Death brings life to its goal. But the goal is not death—the goal is pefect life”

Thomas Merton

September 2, 2002

One more thing

Category: Personal — Biella @ 11:53 pm

I forgot to mention that if you go to the Musee Mecanique make sure to check out the Opium Den machine. It is the funniest mechanical rendition of a drug trip that you will ever see.

September 1, 2002

Musee Mecanique

Category: Personal — Biella @ 10:44 pm

A friend unexpectedly showed up in San Francisco yesterday so I have spent the last 36 hours roaming around having much more fun than I expected this labor day weekend. I finally got to see
Harold and Maude on the big screen last night at the Red Vic . It was the fifth time that I have seen that movie though watching it on big screen was like watching it for the first time. It is one of those rare movies that exude a sort of timeless quality even if all the clothing ties are about 3 times the current size!

Today was a hot day in SF, even by SF standards. It was perfect for going to Ocean Beach to throw a Frisbee ™ [yes, frisbee is a trademark] around before heading to my favorite of favorite places in the city, the musee mecanique, which holds a collection of coin-operated automatic mechanical musical instrument and games. It is a wonderfully fun spot that is unfortunately moving to Fisherman’s Warf sometime after it closes down at its current location at the Cliff House this month. If you have not yet gone, GO. Part of its mystique and charm is its location high up on the Cliff where one can look below at the Sutro Baths (where Harold and Maude’s anti-war scene happens) and look beyond to the still hills of the Marin Headlands. It is surrounded by the majesty of this place adding to its already magical quality. I think it is a shame that it is moving to Fisherman’s Whorf although I guess it is better than having the relics move away permanently from SF….

Now I am back home, pretty tired from all the biking, frisbee throwing, all on raw foods. Now I need sleep.