September 30, 2004

Are you MENTAL?

Category: Not Wholesome — Biella @ 4:01 pm

Why do psychiatrists feel compelled to include every “deviance from the norm” in the DSM ( the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), and by this why do they abnormalize everything?

So a group of ‘chiatrists (probably after quitting coffee or something) have decided that coffee withdrawl might be a pyschiatric condition worth listing in the DSM. Now I have quit coffee numerous times, and yes, it is painful, mentally so, but what is the point of inclduing this in the DSM?

Sept. 30, 2004 — Researchers are saying that caffeine withdrawal should now be classified as a psychiatric disorder.

A new study that analyzes some 170 years’ worth of research concludes that caffeine withdrawal is very real — producing enough physical symptoms and a disruption in daily life to classify it as a psychiatric disorder. Researchers are suggesting that caffeine withdrawal should be included in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), considered the bible of mental disorders…

“The withdrawal symptoms can be mild or severe, but it’s estimated that 13% of people develop symptoms so significant that they can’t do what they normally would do — they can’t work, they can’t leave the house, they can’t function,” he says.”

I think one of the most fundamental incorrect premises of the DSM is that we are supposed to “function” normally all the time. Life is too rich and full of surprises in both those good and horrible ways for that to ever be the case. Now I am not one to say that no mentall illness exists (believe me there are too many literally crazy folks in my family for me to ever say that) but I wish they would stop wasting their time by putting everthing under the DSM bag and concentrate on the stuff that matters, which is also not just shoving medicines down people’s throats but that is another story…

September 29, 2004

Bound By Action, Responding Because the World Responds to You

Category: Anthropology — Biella @ 10:41 pm

I recently finished a brilliant book, Bound by Recognition by Patchen Markell. Lucid yet intricate, Patchen grapples with basic facts of the human condition and applies it to political theory and uses it to launch a critique againt orthodox currents in the debate about multiculturalism. Here I cannot provide a rich or even simple account of the book. But for the purpose of this entry, it is worth noting my favorite part in his analysis is about the fact of unpredictability which can be explained by two words he uses a lot, action and bound. Over and over again he argues persuasively that our actions always exceeds our intentions, this surplus is what interconnects us to other people (and other actions) in ways we could have never imagined. This in fact is what nullifies any idea of the self-enclosed, atomized individual, a zip-locked freezer safe entity of self hood. Eastern philosophy and religion has made debunking sovereign
notions of the self central to itself, while much of Western thought has traveled in the other direction, arguing for or at least an aspiring to various forms of sovereignty (the self, the social group, the nation). Using some gripping stories and accounts from classical Western literature and philosophy, he is able to skillfully deconstruct the illusions of sovereinty, and also argue the ways in which forms of injustice are often predicated on these ideas of sovereignty. Anyway, if you are into political philosophy, Hegel, Greek tragedy, multiculturalism or a good read, check it out.

So, I especially like books that seem to confirm the mundane experiences of your life. As I explained a couple of days a go, a piece of mine that was originally published in an arcane anthropology journal, made its way (and I have no idea how) to some equally enigmatic (at least to me) Linux jounral and then made it to GrokLaw. Though I fully intended that that article be confined to an academic audience (having already published other similar pieces that were less anthro-jargony), my intentions criss-crossed with someone elses and new results were born. This is what Patchen shows the unpredicable nature of our actions, makes life at once exciting, risky, joyful, and full of sorrow.

Though receiving accolades from PJ at GrokLaw and others who have written me, I also received the attention (by which I mean I received emails) from two of the more well known figures in Free and Open Source Software, easily identified by their three letter initials ESR and RMS. Both to say the least were unhappy with my description of FOSS as politically agnostic. I think part of difference of opinion can be explained by some confusion over language and terms (and arent most misunderstandings over this), but otherwise I think we just have pretty different interpretations (or perhaps more apt, different ideas over where one should interpret social life)

In the past most anthropologists never had to deal with the question of

September 27, 2004

Coffee Hackers

Category: Wholesome — Biella @ 10:38 pm

Hackers like coffee and apparently some coffee home roasters think of themselves as hackers (or so I read on a coffe roasting mailing list today). Unconvinced, I went to this page Hot Rod Home Coffee Roasters: The Spirit of Invention and I was immediately convinced, these coffee nuts are hackers!

For some people who roast their own coffee, off-the-shelf home coffee roasting appliances don’t cut it. Either they don’t offer enough control of the roast, are too expensive, or just don’t allow the roaster (uh, the person that is) to express themselves. The homemade or seriously modified commercial roasters on this page are alternately amusing and intimidating in appearance, but whatever the case, they probably work very well. And if they don’t, you can bet they will be reconfigured endlessly until they do by their respective owners. …

September 26, 2004

What a morning

Category: Personal — Biella @ 2:15 pm

I woke up groggy and tired afer a late night of dinner and karaoke to celebrate my b-day and I woke to tough-to-swallow-news. I won’t go into the horrific details but I lost a lot of data on my computer, luckily more than 90% (the most important stuff) was backed up and most of the lost stuff is in print form. Actually the only information I lost lost were quotes I planned to use in my dissertation chapters that do exist but only in “raw form” (ie in interviews and fieldnotes). Now I need to go back and pull them out. Sigh. I guess it never harms you to read through all these email lists and field notes again. It can only help.

The good news though is that my article in Anthropology Quarterly which I thought would never see the light of day (that is, it would collect dust in libraries) is now reprinted on the web atLinux Insider and was also mentioned in a really good (and long) article in GrokLaw. Given the AQ piece in the Social Thought and Commentary section, this is only fitting and I am glad to hear the editor allowed them to reprint the article.

Now I need to get my bearings, keep working on my dissertation and read the Groklaw article and remember to make a back up of my stuff at least weekly….

September 23, 2004

Mail Disorder

Category: Personal — Biella @ 12:24 am

Life has been slipping through my fingers, a little too busy since my trip back from Seattle to really do anything totally right. And it seems like my mail has been slipping too. 2 pieces of mail have been sent back to the sender even though the address was correct (I have head that Chicago mail is notoriously bad) and then a number of gmail emails that were not spam got filed into my spam folder and I only discovered that today.

Maybe in a few (Days, Weeks or Months), things will be back in order.

September 17, 2004

More Walmart News

Category: Politics — Biella @ 10:56 pm

So here is a new article on the Walmart class action suit. Good stuff. I still get more comments on this entry and here is where you can get information about the suit

Think Twice About Eating Fish

Category: Health — Biella @ 10:48 pm

So, I have some pretty strong views about health and nutrition but I keep most views to myself.

But if there is something that I will be preachy about, it is mercury and fish. My suggestion is really look into it, because all reports is that fish is filled to the gills with mercury and if you eat enough fish, the effects are nothing to be jumping for joy about.

Look, if the FDA has warned that pregnant women should limit fish consumption to less than two servings a week, you know that there IS a significant amount of mercury in fish.

Mercury poisoning can cause serious health problems, and now researchers are looking with more seriousness into the connection between mercury and chronic illness

Mad About Mercury

By Pat Hemminger, Common Ground. Posted September 15, 2004.

Last April, at the first federally sponsored symposium on mercury and public health, Dr Jane Hightower of San Francisco’s California Pacific Medical Center presented some alarming findings: nine out of 10 Bay Area residents who ate fish regularly had elevated blood-mercury levels and associated health complaints.

“People are having symptoms just like the hatters,” says Hightower alluding to the 19th and early 20th century “mad hatters” who were exposed to mercury nitrate used to process fur pelts. “They have weakness, headache, stomach upsets, hair loss, allergy symptoms, and there’s a question of autoimmune disease.”

Hightower is not the only medical professional who is worried about mercury. Recently, many Bay Area physicians have begun questioning their patients about fish intake and measuring blood-mercury levels. Dr. Laurie Green of the Pacific Women’s Obstetrics and Gynecology Medical Group now asks her patients to record not only what fish they eat but how much: “I’ve been astounded at how many patients have high mercury levels and underestimate their fish intake,” she writes. Green was amazed to discover “how much better they feel once they cut out the contaminated food.”

It is good to see that the ill effects of mercury are being addressed outside of the alternative health community. If you are interested in this this site no mercury has great up to date information.

September 14, 2004

Chicago’s New Park

Category: Wholesome — Biella @ 9:16 pm

Wow, so on my way to the DMV to renew my license, I took a short detour to millenium park. There I was swept by the fever for the flavor or world’s newest and for sure one of the coolest parks. What I liked was that the various art pieces adorning the park while different, all shared a certain aesthetic quality. While they were dramatic and larger than life, they were also personable and intimate, some of them cleverly integrating people into their very presentation.

For example, the crown fountains are really tall, they tower, a cool mist of water flowing down it sides. Yet is demeanor is inviting, kids of course made their way under the mist, cooling off on a hot day, an inviting posture magnified by the faces adorning its facade.

The pritzer pavillion is intensely dramatic, huge pieces of wavelike metal crowning the stage. It shape is sweeping yet inviting, a hovering puzzle that beckons you to stare at it, marveled at its ability to hang together.

Probably by favorite piece is what reminds me of a drop of mercury, the reflection so brilliant, and even if slightly distored, an integration of the public into the very art.


September 12, 2004

Spirit of the Game

Category: Wholesome — Biella @ 8:18 pm

Today I visited the place of one of my last incarnations, the Ultimate Frisbee field to watch the final game during Chicago’s “premier” tournament held every fall outside of Chicago in the burbs.

Ultimate is usually played with a white frisbee and this whiteness is matched by the whiteness of the sport. Ultimate is really one of the whitest sports around although everyone is really quite brown because players spend nearly every weekend outdoors, playing in these marathon two days tournaments. So they are perhaps the whitest tannest athletes with the exception of beach volleyball players and surfers etc. There is always a smattering of Asians and a few African-American player but aside from that you have your pretty much white, liberal, and relatively affluent players out on the fields.

Despite the homogenity of players, Ultimate at some other level strikes me as wholly unique in so far as “types” of sports that exit out there, even perhaps bordering on the revolutionary. It has been years since I attended a large scale tournament and today I was struck at the absence of outside corporate sponorship and advertising adorning these large scale tournaments. While there might be local sponorship, corporate presence is kept more or less at bay. Advertising usually comes in the form of a motely collection of beer brands as most every player downs a brewksi (or two or three or four…) once their team has been eliminated.

Ultimate is one of these recent, ‘modern’ sports, after all, it came post the plastic age. One of the defining features of the Ultimate is that it is player run, players decide the rules, and as an extension, make calls, like fouls, picks, etc themselves during the heat of the game. They don’t rely on officials to mediate conflict. Governance comes from within, as opposed to being mediated from the outside.

The governing principle of Ultimate, which undergrids this form of self-governance, is called ‘Spirit of the Game.’ Though the name is a little dorky (and makes me wonder if a Hegelian, inveted it), it is one hell of a great concept to apply to “sports,” normally thought to be organized around a logic of extreme competition, at all costs. Instead, Spirit of the Game affirms that since players first love playing the game, a certain form of respect is required to live up to the game, a respect that carries with it responsibility.

Ultimate has traditionally relied upon a spirit of sportsmanship which places the responsibility for fair play on the player himself. Highly competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of the bond of mutual respect between players, adherence to the agreed-upon rules of the game, or the basic joy of play. Protection of these vital elements serves to eliminate adverse conduct from the Ultimate field. Such actions as taunting of opposing players, dangerous aggression, intentional fouling, or other ‘win at all costs’ behavior are contrary to the spirit of the game and must be avoided by all players.”

And believe me, Ultimate at the club level is not some gushy mushy feel good sport of late night home baked cookies and warm milk. It is about as competitive as sports can get, men and women literally dedicating their time and cash to play, sacrificing their bodies to the hard ground, and largely without recognition outside of the community. Everyone on the field wants to win. Yet, given the atmosphere is quite different than in most sports, (even “unconventional” extreme sports where ESPN and major corporate labels are always to be found), it reminds us that competition and desire to win does not take some universal form. It can have a different valence and in this case it its mediated by what is a fundamentally moral concept.

These folks are obsessively dedicated and yet dedicated to the idea and experience of the sport and thus as an extension to those who play. There is trust among players that translates into the idea that players can make judgements about fouls and then how to proceed. The rules are decided by the players and every couple of years they are ammended to include some new provision, clarify some other one, or eliminate one all together. Learning the rules comes from playing together on fields, working through some pick or foul or stalled count.

There was a brief period, I think in the late 1980s (it could have been early 1990s) when there was more of a corporate presence. In particular the tequila company Cuervo was running elite tournaments and they wanted to change the rules to make it more “viewer” friendly. This was not taken well and they were given the boot and since then, there has been no large scale corporate presence. It is not necessarily the presence of a large banner announcing the wonder of some alcohol drink that is a problem (these folks are not anti-corporate and certainly not against alcohol) but if the prescence of that banner takes power away from the players, then there is a problem.

In this way it strikes me a lot like free software production, which is anti-that which takes away power away from hackers as to what they can hack on. The ‘that’ happens to be IP law (among some other things) but it is not necesarily a critique that extends further than that.. I should one day right a more comprehensive comparison between the two but for now I will leave it at ‘that.’

I really enjoyed watching the final game today. For me, it is just a fun game to watch, bringing back memories of years and years of running around, always out of breath, simply because I wanted to catch and throw a disc. Beyond my personal experiences with the sport, I really do appreciate Ultimate for its broader example of the respect that comes from self-governance enshrined in a ethical principle that is realized in the very practice of the game (Can you tell, I am dying to do a small ethnographic project on this…) More notable is that the ways in which principles of respect and self-governance can be applied to places and contexts that otherwise might seem inimical to those principles. And that is why it is a poweful example. It is not just that they have successfully integrated self-governance but have done so in a context, “sport” that is usually associated with extreme competition.

September 10, 2004

Nothing like a good Jesus Vs Bush Joke

Category: Humor — Biella @ 3:48 pm