July 27, 2003

Procrasitnate on /. yields some hilarious insights.

Category: Humor — Biella @ 6:14 pm

So today there was a honest-to-god plea on slashdot asking for help to overcome the great problem of our century–> procrastination. I have been quite cozy to the “procrasitnator” lately which I think has most to do with my life as “errand woman” right now. I hate errands so it kinda saps the soul and biellaness from me being that I have to do all my mom’s errands as well as mine.

But anyway, I sat down and read some of the comments on /. about this great ill because I thought it would be fascinating to see what hackers and computer folks had to say about this. Given the fact that a) hackers have to spend an inordinate amount of time hunched over the computer b) they hate to do what they don’t want to do, I wanted to hear their solutions. Many were sincere and passionate. I recommend reading them. But just in case you don’t want to slog through them all, I present to you the strangest yet most endearing one that recommends a command line environment in the nude . Below is the comment for your convenience:

” Underwear and the Command Line (Score:5, Insightful)
by Snafoo (38566) on Sunday July 27, @01:00PM (#6545023) I’ve been diagnosed with ADD and I have two suggestions for dealing with procrastination and focusing problems. Note that I don’t to either of these much anymore, as I’m medicated, but they worked well enough at the time.

Suggestion #1:

I have a little theory to the effect that, for a certain percentage of the population, GUIs have made focusing a lot more difficult: Sure, your taskbar, icons, buttons and menus make it easier to switch rapidly between many different tasks and contexts, but they also _make_it_easier_to_switch_between_many_different_t asks_and_contexts_. One minute you’re studying faithfully — at your mental office, so to speak — and the next, you’re in your mental rec room, playing FreeCiv; or in your mental coffee shop, chatting on /. And, Oh God, the futzing that one can do with a GUI! Desktop icon arrangement. Wallpaper. Themepacks, for heaven’s sake. It’s a temple of distraction in here.

So here’s what I recommend: Ditch it. Ditch the GUI. Install Linux, if you haven’t already, and configure /etc/inittab to boot to initlevel 4. Learn to love vi or nano or emacs: They work great for comp sci projects, and if you have an essay or a paper to write, do it in vi first, import it to word_processor_of_your_choice (for formatting) only when you’re about to print it.

If you can’t ditch the GUI for whatever reason (i.e. you need a proprietary Windoze app, or you can’t bear to install Linux) then I recommend setting up a new account (linux) or user profile (‘doze) that will only allow you to run only those applications which you need to get the job done. If that doesn’t work, you should seriously consider getting yourself a (second-hand?) laptop upon which you will place only work-related programs — preferably, one without WiFi or some other way of exposing it to the Lethean floodwaters of the ‘net.

Suggestion #2. This next one is a little weird, but it works well for me. Note that it might work less well if you don’t have any roomates, as it depends greatly on your desire to avoid embarrassment. It also requires that you have an extra room in your house.

Make yourself a home office in a well-heated room, and keep only work-related things in it. When you go to study, take in all the food, caffeine, and books that you’ll need for a stint of about five hours. Set an alarm clock to go off in five hours. Now, close the door, and take off your pants. Yes, you heard me, take off your pants. If necessary, take off your shirt as well. Put them in a plastic bag, and tie the bag shut. Put the bag away (the further away the better.). This way, you can’t leave the room suddenly without raising eyebrows: If, say, you have a sudden impulse to jump up and watch TV, or phone a friend, it’ll take you a good five minutes to dress, which should be plenty to reconsider and sit back down.

After a couple of months of this, you get in the habit of staying in the room until the alarm sounds, you don’t have to take off your pants anymore.

July 26, 2003

Bamboo Bikes

Category: Bikes — Biella @ 6:32 pm

This bamboo bike would be so fitting for the tropics!

July 22, 2003

discipline and punishment through a pill

Category: Health — Biella @ 6:12 pm

Yet again I am in the throes of quitting caffeine. I have sort of resigned myself to the fact that I will probably never quit for good until at least I have the time to really take the months and months it might need to get my mental sharpness back. I have quit caffeine 2 other times in the recent past and even after like 2 months I felt mentally so much slower and duller. Just one cup can give it all back. For now I just quit to give my liver a short break from what I have decided is a damn powerful drug.

Given the dullness, all I was able to do today was lounge around the house as the rain poured reading what is really a remarkable book, a large portion of which is also about drugs. More specifically it was about the effect of psychiatric drugs on the mind and the murky and downright ethically questionable relationship between the pharmaceutical companies, drug trails, and doctors. The book is Mad in America by Robert Whitaker. Anyone who is on psychiatric drugs, knows someone on them, or is just generally interested in this issue should go and buy a copy of this book that will leave you depressed, angry, and disgusted at the mental health profession even if you are already pretty depressed, angry, and disgusted as I am. I did not think I could get any more upset but alas, that is not the case.

The book catalogues the treatment of the mentally ill in America from the 1800s onwards noting how societal currents and economic and professional interests have shaped a field that has more often than not been one of severediscipline and punishment instead of healing and care. Whether it was fueled by eugenic theories of human beings (which legitimated such practices as electroshock therapy, lobotomies, and forced sterilizations), the sickening hubris of a professional group looking for legitimacy in a field in which “the real and the good” means medication, or the profit seeking of large pharmaceuticals who will skew clinical trails to paint rosy pictures of a “new” schizophrenia medication that reaps enormous profits thanks to patent protections, the psychiatric profession in America has been one of negligence, explicit torture of patients during medical trials, bad science, secrecy, and loathsome practices. Yet this pathetic and dangerous history has been hidden well behind the cloak of “science and medicine.” Whitaker unveils a portion of this history though you get the sense there is a lot more hidden.

July 21, 2003

the torture of love

Category: Alzheimers,family — Biella @ 4:03 pm

These days my mom can’t do much that requires sight though she can see to some degree. It is strange, it is as if she sees but in a distorted way missing a lot of what is around her and just plain misperceiving things. She has always had a will of kryptonite so she still insists on doing stuff that requires sight, it just takes her a lot longer and she then puts objects in funny places. But the woman can still talk which she has always been able to do and now that she can’t do much else, she really goes full throttle.

Tonight she told a collection of stories on love. She spoke of the love between my grandparents in Russia which is a particularly tender and romantic story and then she told of her loves and romantic escapades which included that of my father. I really like the one of my grandparents because first of all, they were never married and he left another woman and his daughter because he fell so deeply in love with my grandmother at first sight. I know that is a raw deal for the other woman but those stories of undiluted passion are quite a treat.

Apparently, they had (or at least they thought they had) this psychic communication, thinking the same thoughts at the same time, many times over. I guess it was easier to connect in such a way without all this modern technology we have these days… ;-) The sad thing was that right after they met my grandfather was jailed by Stalin for 10 years. There you find the man of your dreams and he is jailed for a long time in a prison where there is a high chance of dying. A long time to wait, no?

July 19, 2003

Fast for Mind Freedom

Category: Politics — Biella @ 7:45 pm

Norsehorse pointed me out to the up and coming Mindfreedom fast that is being documented on this blog. The hunger strike is due to start on August 16th and meant to make people aware that mental health (and how treatment is delivered) is a human right issue as well as to challenge the international dominance of the bio-psychiatric model for illness which is being imposed outside of the U.S. through such “friendly” institutions as the WTO, WHO, and World Bank….

July 17, 2003

Celia se fue

Category: Uncategorized — Biella @ 5:29 pm

Today Puerto Rico’s premier salsa station 93.7 FM is paying tribute to Celia Cruz who passed away today of cancer. With over 70 records to her name, the station can play and play her enchanting songs all day and night long. Unreplaceable, I am sure her legacy will long continue.

July 13, 2003

The cheap guide to Puerto Rico

Category: Other — Biella @ 7:14 pm

So I am sort of fed up with the lack of information on traveling and eating and living cheaply in Puerto Rico. I have thus decided to start a webpage with information on traveling cheaply in Puerto Rico . It is about the simplest page it can be and right now I am posting what is an utter draft but hopefully in a few weeks time it will at least be filled with no graphics but good information for the budget traveler or visitor.

July 12, 2003


Category: Personal — Biella @ 8:46 am

I got back yesterday from a little jaunt around the island. I spent a couple of days with Jose Maldonado my environmental science teacher from high school and my summer employer for a couple of summers in his excellent tropical ecology camp. He has an awesome house in a town called Vega Alta (around 45 minutes outside of san juan) where he ran the camp. He has the tons of fruit trees, some nice land, and a pack of dalmations, including one that loves to rest her head on your lap even if you standing up.

We were trying to get to Culebra which is one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean and I would say the only one you can stay at cheaply because camping is relatively inexpensive (just went up in price, but more on that later). There was a HUGE storm here on Tues so we did not make it to Culebra till Wed late afternoon but it was so worth it even though Micah and I had to get home Friday early.

We snorkeled twice on Thursday and it was by far by best snorkeling experience here in PR. We saw a leather back turtle at 8 am while snorkeling in Flamenoc beach and then later on saw a bunch of squid (they are night creatures so it was surprising) and sting rays along with lots of other cool fish. The snorkeling is not the “best” in the Caribbean but it is truly not bad. Also, there is this one section next to Tamarindo beach that does not allow fishing anymore and since I went five years ago (they started the ban 3 years ago), the fish are a lot larger.

Micah and I were also adopted by two Puerto Rican families who felt sorry that we basically only brought a tent, dry food, towel, and snorkeling gear. And people in Flamenco tend to recreate thier homes when camping so we were like the pauper campers for them. So they fed us, gave us drinks, and made sure we were up at 5 am to catch the early ferry back to Fajardo.

Back in San Juan, I frustratingly discovered that healthhacker.com pointed to an inactive DNS which meant my site was down and I had no mail. After being gone for four days it felt like being locked out of my house and though it is back up, mailing is slowly trickling in. Very frustrating to say the least but at least I had a nice few days before hand.

This weekend I hope to get up a site for budget travel in PR. It is sort of an oxymoron because this is not a cheap place to live or travel but there are cheap ways to get around and eat and have fun so watch out for my page soon!

July 6, 2003

Class and Culture

Category: Anthropology — Biella @ 2:39 pm

The relationship between class and culture is a perplexing one. Ever since our already questionable car almost blew up while driving last week, we have been using public transportation everywhere here in Puerto Rico. Given that this is a car-loving island where public transportation exists but is definitely not “easy,” those with cars and those without cars mark the haves from have-nots (though there are plenty of working class and poor people with cars too). But really if you are using public transportation on the island, you probably don’t have all that much money. Most people here who have cars have probably never or rarely taken a bus or one of the city to city vehicles, a publico. Traveling on them and hearing the conversation gives you a sense of what people of different classes struggle and deal with. News about social security, the island-wide health plan, medicaid and all are ample on the busses. Running errands, shopping, and just general getting around takes quite a long time. You see lots of elderly people and mothers with kids. Life is easier with public transportation but it is still hard.
Riding the busses which is so class based here as it is in many places in the states, made me think about what it is that let’s say an upper middle class Puerto Rican shares with a lower/working class Puerto Rican. On the one hand so much about the music, certain values, and food are similar yet life experience given the differences that money affords in the realm of security, commodities, transportation, housing, and education seems so vast that cultural similarities pale in comparison to class difference.

But along a similar axis, do folks from a certain class (let’s say working class) from one cultural region share more with the upper class of their own region or with the same class of an entirely different region? It is hard to answer. Marxists of course would love it if class was more important than culture, but culture plays such a strong role in class experience (foods, music, values, religion) that there seems to be a lacuna of shared experiences of a class across culture.

So within the same society, class divides yet across societies it seems more like culture divides. Although it is certainly relative. Places where class divide is not as strong, perhaps cultural affinity is stronger whereas moments of great class divide are moments of trans-cultural and national unity.

These questions are not easily answered but it is remarkable how stepping onto a bus alone is stepping into another socio-cultural realm.