I just sent a message out to my mailling list of people who signed up for updates about the Computers of Bolivia project. It's really close to finally happening. I'm excited, and a little stressed out about it, because there will be a lot of work in the next month making it really happen. But hopefully it will all work out and by April the machines will be at their destinations!
Meanwhile, as explained in an excellent recent article by my friend in La Paz, Luis Gómez, the efforts to bring the exiled president and his cronies to justice in Bolivia continues, slowly and painfully.
In the nostagia department, a year ago yesterday I crossed the border leaving Bolivia and going into Brazil. On the night of December 30 I witnessed a year-end candomblé ritual down at the Rio Paragui in Corumbá. People were putting boats full of food and flowers in the river and letting them float downstream. It was beautiful. And for New Year's eve I drank beer ("Brahma," which was like the Brazilian national beer, it seemed) and ate barbeque on Eva Peron's yacht, with the couple that now own it, a kenyan-british woman and her yankee husband, their teenaged son, 2 french guys and a brazilian videographer. And after midnight the kid took us to a disco club and we danced with the party people of Corumbá.
Tonite promises to be much less interesting, but I will enjoy spending time with friends at a quiet little party in northeast portland, and maybe playing some video games at Freegeek beforehand.
It's very cold for Portland, and sprinkling rain on and off. Very cold rain. I was reminded as I rode my bike home from breakfast a little while back how rain doesn't have to be so cold. I wouldn't mind it if it was warm water. I thought back to the heaviest rain I've ever seen, on my last day in South America back in March, in Sao Paulo. Caught in a torrential downpour, I marvelled at how the rain was so intense that the storm sewers were spitting water back up through grates in the street, and huge expanses of street and sidewalk were just impassable. But the rain was warm. It wasn't pleasant, exactly, but it was tolerable because it was warm.
By contrast, rain here in Oregon feels like liquid ice. Not fun to bike around in, especially because I have a headcold. I can't wait till I get out of this town again...
I was invited to try out the newest 43 things site. It's about the same as the old one, post your goals in life, but you can also write stuff about them and denote certain goals that you've already done, and it's not anonymous. seems to have potential, on one hand, but on the other I think it's just another way to waste time on the internet. however, it's cool to see people I know on there, like rabble and gaba.
I just have to go on record to warn people, a sort of consumer report, I guess, about an online camera store called A&M Photo World. I ordered a digital camera from them yesterday and got totally jerked around. I've cancelled my order.
I don't want to waste too much time on this, I just want to briefly describe the problem. no, wait, fuck it. I have better things to do. let's just say they are typical sales weasels and leave it at that.
In these dark days of winter it is indeed good to have music. I've always liked this drawing. Not sure where it's originally from. I just now scanned it from a flyer for a local record shop that i've been carrying around for a couple years.
I'm scanning stuff like that today. scraps of paper that I've been saving for too long.
indymedia.tk is a great parody Indymedia site, set up to prevent abuse of the indymedia.tk domain. tk is the TLD of Tokelau, evidently some little island nation in the south pacific. If only things were really so tranquil! heh...
Yesterday was my birthday and I had a little party at my house. It was a collage-party as well as a birthday party. I brought out gluesticks and scissors and my box of source material (magazines, newspapers, old books, etc) and we went at it. Now I have a hangover and the livingroom is a quite amazing mess of paper scraps and chai mugs and wine glasses. And I don't feel like cleaning it up at all. Luckily i still have something like 12 days till my housemates return. yay!
UPDATE: I scanned some of the collages and uploaded them.
I just participated in a Gallup survey for the first time. Very interesting. I received a phone call from Gallup and was asked a bunch of questions about my bank and the service I received upon my last visit to one of their branches. I now understand a little bit more about how ridiculous surveys are. All the questions required me to answer with a number between 1 and 5, and they were all very fake, vague kinds of questions, like "Did the teller make you feel welcome?" or "Did the teller genuinely thank you?" What the fuck? Initially when I got the call I was sort of glad because I thought I would be able to tell them something that I had noticed recently about that very branch: previous to a couple months ago, the tellers all knew me by name and greeted me and didn't ask for my ID. It was like I was in a small town bank, real friendly. But lately, all the tellers have been replaced and they don't know me, and ask for ID and social security number and all that jazz like I'm just some number. I'm used to that, and sure, new tellers are going to take awhile to get to know people. But did they have to replace every single employee in that branch? What the hell happened, did they all embezzle a bunch of cash and run off to Tahiti? I hope so.
But anyway, none of these Gallup poll questions enabled me to convey any of that. It was just "4.... uh, 3.... yeah, also 3... 4... umm... 4..." Lame. And that's I'm sure the kinds of surveys that we hear the results of all the time, the ones that say 78% of Americans think George Bush is "a great guy" or something. Sigh.
Back in August my friend Seth told me about a great article in the Guardian (which is now a broken link at their site, dammit)
I finally got around (hah!) to reading it and eventually to reading 2
more well-written pieces on the same subject more recently. one was in the december issue of Harper's.
It mentions an essay by Bertrand Russell, famous philosopher and mathematician and all-around cool british thinker. I have located said essay and it is really rad, not just for promoting leisure but indicting our entire "slave state." I had no idea before this that Russell was so radical.
2 great pull quotes:
"I think that there is far too much work done in the world, that immense harm is caused by the belief that work is virtuous, and that what needs to be preached in modern industrial countries is quite different from what always has been preached."and
"One of the commonest things to do with savings is to lend them
to some Government. In view of the fact that the bulk of the
public expenditure of most civilized Governments consists in
payment for past wars or preparation for future wars, the man who
lends his money to a Government is in the same position as the
bad men in Shakespeare who hire murderers. The net result of the
man's economical habits is to increase the armed forces of the
State to which he lends his savings. Obviously it would be better
if he spent the money, even if he spent it in drink or gambling."
While searching for that Guardian article I found a review there about 5 books on the subject. One of them is probably by the author who wrote the article I was looking for, but I can't tell which. Anyway, it's a good review, stitching together and comparing the theses of the 5 writers and extending the topic to cover geopolitical trends and tendencies.
The topic is very resonant to me, personally, because all of my adult life I've wrestled with the opposed goals of productivity and relaxation. Getting things accomplished versus being a calm, content, non-spastic person. I've referred to it often as my personal mixture of existentialism and taoism. It's an ongoing struggle, balancing Will with Being. At least for me. It seems that most people in the world come down much more on one side or the other. Out of anyone that I know or know of, I feel like I'm most directly in the middle of these 2 poles.
Of course one very true statement is something the writer of this Guardian review says: "The point about being idle is not to work at it, surely..." But this bloke is credited at the end with being "chief executive of the Work Foundation." Wow, is that supposed to be some sort of joke?
Portland Indymedia gets mentioned on this page about SNIU, "Substantial Non-Infringing Uses" of Peer-to-Peer technology:
Portland Indymedia, using BitTorrent, Azureus, Shareaza, and others, distributes video. (Thanks to Alan Cox).
Anyway, hurray. Not that I had anything to do with it, other than provide a few of the videos. The cheers really go out to Jesse, the tech guy here who made it happen.
My housemates just left on a trip to Costa Rica, so I have the house to myself for 2 weeks. I'm pretty happy about that. Not that they annoy me that much, but it is nice to be totally undistracted by other humans shuffling around living their loud lives in the same space. I plan on getting a lot of things accomplished, including a lot of work done on my Juaurez documentary. In fact as soon as I post this I'm going to start transcribing a presentation by Ramona Morales, the mother of one of the murdered women in Juarez, Silvia Elena Rivera Morales.
I think I spend too much time blogging. Kind of silly that I posted this. Especially since I used to live in a house with 3 web cams. One in the kitchen, one in the living room and one in the hallway. I really should do something with all the archived shots at some point. Seems like so long ago. Like a dream. Even though it was only about.... 6-7 years ago. The dream of those heady days during the "digital revolution." hah. hah.
I've been thinking and researching the concept of impunity for my Juarez doc I came across a
recent article in the Nation by Naomi Klein about impunity in Iraq. She pulls no punches dissing John Kerry:
By buying the highly questionable logic that Americans are incapable of caring about anyone's lives but their own, the Kerry campaign and its supporters became complicit in the dehumanization of Iraqis, reinforcing the idea that some lives are insufficiently important to risk losing votes over. And it is this morally bankrupt logic, more than the election of any single candidate, that allows these crimes to continue unchecked.
So yesterday, as the previous entry shows, I found out about a site where you can see the collective life goals or desires of many web users. Now this morning, by odd synchronicity I discover almost the exact opposite in a new eBay feature called Want It Now. Users can post things they want to buy, and sellers can "reply" to these by offering to sell that item. How fascinating to compare these two sites. On one hand we have a place where people are obviously being rather philosophical and contemplative, where they post long term plans and hopes and dreams, anonymously, but collectively with others. And on the other hand we have very very specific, consumerist desires, very specific to each person, which can be specifically answered by someone else.
I blew a few hours yesterday surfing 43 Things and Del.icio.us and Flickr, convinced that some kind of clever conceptual net art project was just waiting to be hatched, by somehow relating or connecting those 3 sites. I didn't really come up with much. But all these sites, and now this new ebay thing, just fascinate me in their common characteristic that they are vast databases of people's lives and hopes and wants. I really feel like something profound and wise could be created by somehow cross-connecting these huge piles of personal information, somehow seeding one with the other.
So, I'm throwing out this idea and giving it up. Go ahead and do it, please, I don't have time. Some clever net artist just waiting for a new idea, here you go, run with it, baby.
I'm not sure exactly what this is, and maybe nobody does other than its creators. It's a list of goals for life. You can add to your list, and see what others have added to their lists, and how many have put a thing on their lists. Ok, cool, but, I don't understand what each page means. the list keeps changing whenever you click on one item. I don't know if it's randomly picking an assortment, or if there's some algorithmic thing going on.
Its fascinating. I'm conducting an experiment: the biggest text on the page indicates the item that is in most people's lists. I keep clicking the biggest one and seeing how it flows.
take more pictures
fall in love
stop wasting time
work because i like to not because i have to
Very very interesting. So simple yet so damn fascinating. It's like the world zeitgeist, or at least the zeitgeist of privileged people who have access to the web. You can search for things, and I cannot find "become a U.S. citizen" (though I do find "become an Egyptian citizen"), I don't see "get my green card," or "feed my family," though I do see that 29 people want to "survive," but that was probably entered as a joke.
Anyway, if you want to see my list, go for it. I of course need to add some stuff to it still.
By the way, I found this by looking at a friend's bookmark list on Del.icio.us
Ok now I gotta get off the web and get something accomplished today.
Another email from Mexico Solidarity Network just now reports that a couple, tortured and wrongly accused of one of the Juarez murders, are free. This is one of the cases that was discussed at length with the president of the Supreme Court of the state of Chihuahua when our delegation met with him November 4. It's one of the cases that he made calls about to other judges while some of the victim's family sat in his office. Wow.
Here are the details:
Cynthia Kiecker and Ulises Perzabal have been found innocent and have been freed from prison!
U.S. citizen Cynthia Kieker and her husband, Ulises Perzebal, were arrested in May 2003, and charged with the murder of 16-year-old Viviana Rayas. The couple has been incarcerated ever since and tortured into making confessions, which they later retracted. The couple also claims that their lawyers have been threatened. One of their lawyers, Chihuahua resident Miguel Zapien, was recently attacked by an unknown assailant. The arrests of Kiecker and Perzebal are part of an alarming trend in which local authorities appear to be targeting "counter-culture types." This serves two purposes: first, it gives the appearance that authorities are actively investigating the crimes, and, second, officials are able to arrest relatively powerless people who are out of the mainstream and generate little public sympathy with claims of torture.
In June 2004, President Fox visited Kieker's home state of Minnesota, assuring US Senator Norm Coleman that Kieker would be released soon. However, months later Keiker and Perzebal had not been released and Fox?s office now claims he mis-spoke. The parents of the young victim, Viviana Rayas, believe that Kieker and Perzebal are innocent, and have publicly denounced the investigation, saying officials are using the couple as scapegoats.
I just got news from the Mexico Solidarity Network about some Zapatista indigenous villages that are being forced to move because they are in or near the Montes Azules bio-reserve in Chiapas. Apparently Conservation Internaional and other environmental groups are pressuring the Mexican government to get them out of there. The zapatistas moved there to avoid paramilitary violence.
I just wanted to take a minute to say what a shame it is that two progressive causes have to be at odds like this. The zapatistas are even, according to the MSN report, abiding by zapatista laws that include protection of the environment. I always thought Conservation International was better than this. The only mention of this on their site is a press release about the "illegal settlements" and a coalition of organizations that are working on the problem, including "17 indigenous communities and villages." The place is Mexico's first bio-reserve, ever. Of course, no mention of why the settlements are there, or the underlying context, or even of the Zapatistas. It's like these environmental problems are just floating in a political vaccuum, as far as CI is concerned.
What a shame. All these things are connected, and the environment is important, but this is why social justice issues are more important to me. I'm sorry, flowers and toucans are great, but people are just more important, and if you take care of people and do the right thing for them, the environment will naturally follow and be healthy too. (Pun intended.) ¡No justicia, no paz!
At a coding session (or what we call a "Toolshed Day") for work yesterday we discovered DocSynch, a tool for networked collaborative text editing. It's like SubEthaEdit, only better because it's cross-platform, as opposed to SubEthaEdit which only works on the Mac.
It's sort of a weird hack because it uses IRC as the network protocol, but it seems to work once it's installed. Of course when you're all in the same room it's debatable whether tools like that have a real reason to be used besides their "gee whiz" factor. We were joking about, for instance, downloading a whiteboard and a marker to use instead.
A year ago today was my first full day in Bolivia. I woke up in La Paz having just flown in from Sao Paulo the night before. I'm looking at my journal from that day and recollecting:
...sure enough, Portuguese has effected my Spanish. I just asked for water and pronounced it "Agwa Meeneraow" like in Brazil.
I'm in a peña, wihch is a sort of live music restaurant, called Calicanto. I'm told the music will begin soon. I have just barely navigated the ordering process... ooh, the beer does fizz a lot more here, 'cause of the altitude... this language thing is so tiring. How to relax but deal with communicating in this foreign tongue? Stranger in a strange land...
Hah. Yeah, wow, amazing to think back on that mind-blowing time.
Meanwhile, back in the present - I used Skype for the first time yesterday. Where have I been? Why haven't I been up on this amazing piece of software, and how have my parents been using it for a month before I try it? It would have been so easy to take calls from anywhere in the world when we were doing our AFTA radio show a couple weeks ago. I think I just assumed it was PC-only, or that it didn't really work, or maybe the fact that the name sounds like some livestock disease made me unconciously dismiss it. What I want to know is, what's the catch? What is the company going to get out of a million people making free long-distance phone calls? And do we really know it's secure? Or does Homeland Security have a backdoor?
I just found a great site called Patagoniabolivia.net, a blog written by two young independent journalists from Vancouver, B.C. who have been travelling and reporting in Argentina, Chile, and now Bolivia, for many months. It's very good writing, too, or what I can read of it is. One of them seems to do most of his reporting in French. The other, Dawn Paley, writes mostly in English. Very well-designed site, too, using software called Mambo, which I haven't seen before.
I can't stop thinking about how people from closer to the equator never have to deal with nights that are much longer than days. Of course they also don't get the flipside in the summer of nice long days, sunset at 10pm, etc.
Decided to take a nap at 3:30 in the afternoon yesterday and didn't wake till midnight. dammit. Now what do I do. It's good though cuz I was short on sleep, but, wow. I think these short days are really difficult, my sleep pattern is all screwed up. Plus I am worried about a lot of things so when I wake up, I have even more of a hard time getting back to sleep.
In other news, a big power outage on sunday blew out a backup generator at my server's colocation spot, which took the server down. I had to go out there and fsck one of the partitions by hand after it failed to boot back up on its own. So if you were dying to read this blog sunday night you were out of luck. sorry. heh. December seems to be the annual time for my server to go down. odd.
I love how after an outage I get like 100 delayed emails from users telling me the server's down. as if i'm going to be able to get email if the server's down. ha ha, funny users. sigh. I am SO TIRED of being a sys admin. Especially an unpaid one. doublesigh.
Well, this is really great news. A Chilean judge has indicted former dictator Augusto Pinochet. It's an amazing step for human rights but I find it incredible that he is only being charged with 9 kidnappings and one murder, connected with the infamous Operation Condor. I'm sure there's some legal reason why it's easier to convict him for these crimes than for the thousands of others he was responsible for, but it's still pretty insane.
Let's hope it actually goes to trial, and that the trial does not get cancelled because of Pinochet's supposed senile dementia. He apparently gave a lucid interview with a Miami TV station, so he seems fit to stand trial.
This evening I saw the new Werner Herzog film "Incident at Loch Ness." It is really really really great. It's the story of Herzog shooting a film that goes very wrong. I will not say anything else about it, because that would spoil it, except that it is very postmodern. If you haven't seen it, go, a soon as possible, and do not read any reviews or anything else about it, just go, before you know too much and your experience is ruined forever.
This wonderful "game" called "Tropical America", by OnRamp Arts in Los Angeles, is a visually and aurally beautiful interactive history lesson, spiritual journey and electronic poem dedicated to the struggles of Latin America. You register on the site and then guide a character around, accomplishing little tasks and talking to other people and creatures, occasionally being asked to make choices and answer questions. It's not a game in the sense of the hyperactive sensory overloads brought to us by Nintendo and company. It's more of a meditative and deliberate process that brings gentle lessons. It's so very
well done, too, a series of beautiful woodcuts come vividly to life.
I just had one of the stranger experiences in my career as a freelance computer consultant. I've been doing, now and then, little things for a local union local (heh), and talking with them about doing more. Today I came in just to go to a meeting that they were having with a rep from the company that wrote the software for their membership database and hosts the server it runs on. They're unhappy with it, but whenever they have questions they haven't felt like the guy was giving them the real deal. So my job was to just sit there and ask a few intelligent questions, provide a sanity check, and just make him uncomfortable. And it seemed to work. They said, afterward, that he was more helpful and forthcoming than he ever has been before. The fear that they may be hiring me, or anybody else, to do what his company does (and there's no way I easily could, or would want to, anyway) made him more cooperative.
What I kept wondering, and what I finally asked was, why doesn't the international union come up with a database solution that fits all the locals needs? why does each local have to reinvent the wheel everywhere? They agreed, it was silly, but evidently it's not a priority with this union. In fact, maybe all unions are like that, I don't know.
Anyway, I'm happy to be of assistance, but it sure felt weird.
Just found an interesting site about bilateral trade agreements. There's more information in one place than I've ever seen about all the different free trade agreements, separate from the WTO, that are being agreed on. They are all between unequal sides, mostly U.S. and some smaller, weaker country or countries, or the EU or Austrailia and some smaller, weaker, countries, except for China-Thailand, and even that is a pretty unequal relation. But anyway, bilaterals.org, what a great information source...
This is a silly thing, a sort of geeky pet-peeve complaint. So take with a grain of salt. Anyway, I've had this poster sitting on my desk for the last couple weeks, it's a flyer for this film screening for a group called PDX Books to Prisoners. I was actually going to try to go to the screening, which is called Born In Flames. Maybe that's the name of a film, I'm not sure, but it looked interesting, despite the linguistic error that I am about to mention. But I didn't make it to the event, so I took down a copy of the poster afterward, because it bothered me so much and I wanted to be reminded to write about it
My gripe is this: The poster has 4 equations which, at least 3 of which are obviously false. It has the following lines:
BORN IN FLAMES =
My problem with this is that they're misusing the equals sign, such that their statements end up saying exactly the opposite of what they mean. They mean to assert a set of causes and effects, it looks like. What they really mean by "=" is "leads to" or "results in." But in math "=" means "is the same as." It does not mean "causes." So their poster is really saying "Injustice IS Radicalism," Repression IS armed struggle, Patriarchy IS Feminist Army," etc, which of course is not true. I don't know exactly what Born in Flames is so I can't say whether the fourth equation is false or not, though it probably is.
Maybe I'm just too ingrained in a math/science background, but I was actually confused for a minute when i first read the poster. Huh, I thought, are they being ironic? oh! they mean "repression LEADS TO armed struggle!" okay!
It's a silly thing to complain about but these are the kinds of things I notice a lot. I wish people were more careful with their language and their graphic design. Language means things we often don't intend unless we are very aware.
The other day someone mentioned a big Indymedia conference in Austin in February, and I looked it up and sure enough there it is, February 18 to 20. Sounds pretty cool. We need more events where people who are isolated in their own little collectives get together and compare notes, specifically about the indymedia tactic. I feel like there is a lot of re-inventing of the wheel, and mistakes being replicated....
I was planning to be in the Southwest again anyway at that time. Maybe I'll go. I think it would be wonderful to be there and meet a whole bunch of IMCistas from all over the place. As usual whether I go depends on whether I can afford it. I now have about 5 trips I want to make in the next 4 months: Chiapas for Spanish school, D.C for J20, D.C. in March for the final AFTA showdown, and the Collage Conference I've been invited to at U of Iowa at the end of March. And now this. Not to mention the fact that I want to move, probably to Tucson.
If you're planning on going, leave a comment, please.
Anyway, the article is a good and hopeful look at political change in Bolivia and centers around an interview with Oscar Olivera of the Cochabamba Guerra del Agua.
As timing would have it, speaking of hopeful, tommorrow (sunday) is a big election in Bolivia, and this article in the Financial Times suggests that Evo Morales' MAS party is going to do really well, at least compared to the more moderate parties. Things just keep staying interesting in Bolivia.
Today we're doing web radio to cover the AFTA ministerial and associated protests in Tucson, Arizona. Here in Portland we've got an 800 number and we're taking calls from activists on the street in Tucson and talking to them about what's happening there.
And of course anyone else could call in and offer their insights on free trade agreements and resistance to them.
the number is 1-800-939-7973. And you can listen to the stream here.
Woke up at about 5 and couldn't get to sleep again. Many would assume this is insomnia but I got plenty of sleep. I don't need a lot. Plus, I read in a book about Taoism a little while ago that the best way is to rise with the sun, it's the natural and healthy way. It wasn't quite sunrise yet, but still, in this time of year when there's only about 8 hours of sunlight it's good to be awake during as much of it as possible. For me, at least. It's nice how quiet it is in the very early morning, too, before anyone else is up.
Wow what a mundane post. oh well.