December 24, 2004

One day of Peace is SO not enough

Category: Not Wholesome — Biella @ 3:28 pm

Some chastise Christmas for being grossly inauthentic, dominated by crass commercialism. And this is almost impossible to deny In fact, the traffic to the largest shopping mall in the Caribbean (which happens to be where I am. Puerto Rico), is SOOOOOOOOO insane, that it only confirms the more banal aspects of this holiday that I tend to ignore as best as I can.

At the same time, I think it is quite nice that we have a

December 23, 2004

The aesthetics of simplicity

Category: Personal — Biella @ 6:07 am

So I never thought that I would have steady Internet-acess in PR but as it turns out there is an open wireless connection in my mom’s “jardin.” It is a little weird to be surfing as the birds chirp, the coqui’s sing, and the bees try to drink your delicious morning cafe. But I am not complaining. It probably, along with short stints in the ocean, has helped me retain my sanity being that running errands in PR is totally maddening. But all of the major errands are now complete, with some the minor ones still loomming as they always will.

In the meantime I am doing a little work for my course next quarter and I ran into the site that ck help start and build connexions and I was reminded at how wonderful of a place it is. For example, something as simple as A Primer in Modern Intellectual Property Law which not only has great content (check out the side links) but aesthetically, it is arranged very well. Pleasing to the eye and easy to find information.

As of late as I run otherwise mind numbing errands and do domestic work, the question of aesthetics has been on my mind. Aesthetics has probably been the dominant issue in my mom’s life. The arrangement of a room, of even the ceramics on a table mattered like nothing else. She would spend hours fixing stuff so that is appearance was truly perfect. It was an obsession that worked well because our surroundings were always really nice. She had an uncanny ability to achieve what she called “la harmonia.”

About 4 years ago I came home for an extended period of time because I was sick and not getting better in the states. I found that my mom had stripped down her house to the bare minimum. She had one cup, and about 2 of everything else: 2 forks, 2 plates, 2 towels, etc. Evertything else was packed up, out of the way.

At the time I chalked it up to my mom’s general eccentricities, attributing it to some new found zen state of her aesthetic development. Little did I know at the time that this was the first serious sign of her illness, already she was having trouble differentiating things so she was simplifying her life so that the clutter of things would not get in her mental way. It is strange to think that her general obsession in life was an underlying neurological condition that eventually fully exploded around 4 years ago and has become steadily worse.

While here I have filled the kitchen with food and I generally take care of all the cooking and cleaning so she does not have to worry about the ordinary clutter I bring with me. Before I leave however, I will pack up everything extra and leave her with the bare essentials: a couple of utensils, plates etc. The fridge will be emptied out and her house will be transformed again to zen simplicity out of sheer necessity.

December 17, 2004

Back in PR

Category: Personal — Biella @ 7:42 am

It has been a year since I have been in PR and honestly not much has changed. The roads are in total dissray, construction the norm on about half of the roadways. Congestion is rampant and though the new urban train is nearly done, I have a feeling that it will only get worse.

Unfortunately things have changed also. My mother, I can’t say, is any better. She has worsened although it may be do to moving into a new place. She is easily disoriented since she perceives the world as another world and has to relearn a place through feeling and touch.

I have been working hard to unpack the boxes and move the furniture so her house is once again liveable (she recently moved places and unfortunately she was quite used to the other place but it was an investment apt and had to be sold). I am not sure how much longer she can live without help but she is being really stubborn about admitting that she needs some help. She has always been the most stubborn person I know and I have a feeling that this quality of hers will only grow and magnify to become her defining personality trait.

At first she said she refuses to pay someone to help so I found a program through the Alzheimers association of PR where they send a volunteer over 3 days a week for 4 hours to help cook and to provide company. At first my mom dug the idea, now any mention of it and she breaks out in a string of insults about most everything, letting me know that she DOES NOT want any help. It is far from amusing and all I hope is that the main social worker at the Alzheimers association whose got mad upaya (not to be confused with papaya) will be able to convince my mom that having someone help her is not such a bad thing after all.

Since I found things so upside down here, I changed my tix to stay till the end of the month. There was no way I could finish all the errands and do all of the house stuff by the 22nd. I am trying to get some of my own work done but honestly PR has never inspired me to concentrate especially with my mom whose brain is a sea of confusion. It kinda rubs off on me because it is hard to have to be the eyes and brain for someone else all the while trying to get things done in PR which can be confusing in and of itself.

Anyway, the first week was the most hellish, now I am coasting, still not the most comfortable ride but I can manage the turbulance much better. I hope to get to my blog a little more especially since I have found out there is an open wireless connection in my mom’s backyard.

December 15, 2004

The equivalence between puppies and elderly mothers

Category: Other — Biella @ 7:37 am

Walking down the street with your elderly mom is like walking your new born puppy. Everyone smiles your way as if you are doing something really great.

December 1, 2004

Hacker Ethics and Politics, A Course of Study

Category: Wholesome, I think... — Biella @ 6:33 pm

All right, so here is the tentative syllabus. I am still tweaking it some and it is hard because really there is SO much to say….


Category: Personal — Biella @ 3:11 pm

The massive trail of deadlines are over… I really give big props to folks who can churn out articles on demand. Maybe not props, I just downright envy them and want to steal their props. I am just not a pressure cooker writer. Too much of my thinking comes out via writing and thus slow simmering and re-writes are nearly always a must for me.

Next quarter I will be doing less writing and more teaching as I am instructing my own course on hackers, ethics and politics. I will post the syllabus once I do a little rearranging but here are some of the books and articles we will be reading. We won’t cover all of them as some are remnants from a similar course I taught in the summer of 2001 but it is good to have them all there, one click away.

I feel like my battery is dead and am looking forward to the break. My computer also “feels” like it is dying as it sponteanously shuts off. Disconcerting as it is, the idea of a new computer that is more portable than my own is really exciting. Any good suggestsions for a laptop that is under $ 1500, has a batterly life of at least 3.5 hrs, and weighs under 5 pounds?

Otherwise I can finally take a small breather. Last night I went to see Rabbit Proof Fence which is about as heart-tearing and grueling of a movie as you can get. Based on a true story, it is about three aborigine girls who trek by themselves over 9000 miles in Australia to return home after being forcibly removed by the morally righteous Australian state. Nothing like a story of wrethched colonialism to warm your heart before heading home to see your own ailing mom who you have not seen in a year….

The story is remarkable and remarkably unique. The government gave themselves the right under the good ol law to remove “half-caste” kids from their mothers. Just like that and worse until 1970. These kids are called the Lost Generation. The well worn banner of burden was the justifying trope of what was nothing short of ongoing violence even if blood was rarely shed. Pain, after all, comes in many guises.

It is hard to relate only because it seems quite unfathomable, the pain so boundless. Even with my mother’s still here, just the fact that she is no longer my mother in the way she once was, is painful enough. Her ageing is expected to some degree whereas having your children snatched away is just out of the moral order of things.

When you are a child , you are quite dependent on others. But as kids we lack consciousness of this so that this dependence brings with it only warmth and comfort. Later on, after years and years of being independent or a caretaker, you eventually become dependent again but this time you have a consciousness about it, as well as a wealth of experience that tells you in fact you should be autonomous. It sets things up for quite a bit of psychological havoc, a lot of grief, and tragedy especially in Western liberal societies in which we internalize the cult of the individual. And worse is that we (at least the standard, out of the package, middle class solution), are mal-equipped to deal with the elderly. A mobile, fast paced society does not work well for the slow and the aged. So we parcel them off, sequester them in rationalized institutions of care where it is easier on the family but is that really any source of comfort for us or them?

Who knows, I could be wrong and hope I am. For all I know those old age homes are a bundle of joyus fun, where folks get to play pool, drink beer, and hang out with friends….