Fighting

I spent yesterday morning drinking amazing coffee out of a sparkle cup, sitting at kitchen table with a Pirate Parliamentarian. We talked about motorcycles (he’s getting ready to ride along the coast of Italy for the weekend), the SOPA/PIPA blackout (it hadn’t started yet, as it was still pre-midnight in America), and me moving to Berlin. Oh man, do I want to. I mean, as much as I care to move anywhere besides Seattle. And then the nail in the coffin – if I only have bases from which I travel, why not just add Berlin into the mix of those bases? Seattle and Berlin. As the plane comes in over these fair cities, I look down and think “I could stay here.”

And then the SOPA blackout unfolded, and I saw my friends laugh and pontificate and fight. Seeing @herderpepedia did it for me the most – the people for whom information has been democratized to such a degree that they don’t even think about it, how they freak out when their oxygen is removed. It made me think about the fights my parents have been a part of, and what sorts of impacts were made. Dad as one of the main organizers against the Vietnam “War.” Mom fighting for feminism. Both fighting for Unions, and Sex Ed in schools, and for alien rights. They did huge, amazing things in Ann Arbor and in Chicago. And then, when those fights were “won,” they went back to the town my father grew up in and are still fighting there. Often for the same things, the news that those fights had been won never reached these “pockets” which are actually most of America.

I began to wonder where I would be most useful in life. Is it better to do great things with the choir, or teach the people who don’t get it yet? The hacker scene in Berlin is amazing. They have a fucking Pirate Party, for fuck’s sake. They have a massive hackerspace community. They have grass-roots ISPs and are actively working on getting Satellites into space so everyone can have free internet. I have dreams here about a (not so strange) future where Berliners wage information wars against other countries while the city is bombed for ensuring everyone has a voice. (I’m wary of using the term “information war” here, as communication is both a human right but also a political act. Bombing is certainly an act of war.) I would do great things here, be amongst amazing people, and completely fail to reach all but the most involved. Sure, our combined impact might create ripples that reach far and wide. But I’m wary of the assumption that things will “get there” without direct involvement.

So I’m going to continue what I do, for now, traveling and evangelizing and throwing my brain and my charm at a Past that is Broken, dragging the Future kicking and screaming into the fray. But later in life. When there are people who are crazier and more energentic and smarter than I am… then I will move to a tiny town (maybe the same one I grew up in – the same place my father was raised and he and my mother live now) and become a teacher. Corrupt the children. Teach them that It Gets Better, because they will make it Better.

Now, let’s extrapolate this idea a bit more. What about organizations? What about groups of people that are from The Past, who are Fat Cats, who are disconnected from reality and humanity? Are they worth talking to, or do we distain them, leave them to wither and die in the dregs of their own morals? Do we talk to them, influence them, bring the Future with open hands and hearts to them? We forget, in our Bubbles of Awesome, that many folk listen to what is said by these (non-awesome-kind-of) Dinosaur Leaders. If we can influence them, we do create ripple effects. Gaining status and the trust associated with it, and Having Things to Say means you are listened to, not just by your own choir. And isn’t that the point?

Think about this in regards to SOPA, and Dan talking to Congress. Think about this in terms of Telecomix talking to Guttenberg. Think about this in regards to DARPA wanting to fund hackerspace projects. These lines are blurry, but it is irresponsible of us to simply take the people who already “get it” and leave the rest in the cold. That is intellectual class war. It is also a more standard class war, as it assumes access to computers, an environment which encourages breaking and learning, and the free time to participate in this culture. No one knows you’re a dog on the internet, but you have to 1) have a computer 2) know how to type 3) know how to get on a social platform 4) know how to not be a dog.

I end this entry sitting with my laptop, listening to music from a member of my Post Geographic Tribe. Stickers are strewn across the floor, shadows are cast on the walls, and tomorrow is full of adventure. Selfishly, I know I’ll enjoy this fight, whether or not we win. But I hope we do. Are you fighting?

FaceBook

The time has come to cull my facebook account. This is both a personal decision and a cultural one. Afterall, cultural change is an individual’s responsibility.

I’m tired of people feeling like having a mark on someone, a way of contacting them because they maybe crossed paths at one point, takes care of actually engaging people. I’m sad the drama and shallow exchanges facebook not only permits but, by its very infrastructure, encourages.If you want to take action with me, find me in these places. If you want to actually talk to me, you can find me via text or in person or at an event or during office hours.

This is part of my finally establishing personal boundaries on my time. My core group of friends get the vast majority of my time. Maybe this round will even stick. The world is, afterall, full of shiny and awesome people. This is not me saying I don’t care about who you are or what you do – it’s that I no longer have the bandwidth to share it with you so much. I can trust you to take care of your section of the world, yes? And you want me to be happy and focused, even if that doesn’t involve you? Awesome. I’m glad we can agree.

I want it to be ok for people to grow out of a time in their life. I want attention to go to the things immediately around people and their interests, not some trivial game with someone they had one (albeit amazing) conversation with two years ago. Let life be a process, a continuum, let go of the things that are done.

The only thing Facebook has going for it is critical mass. And that won’t change unless we, as individuals, take the detriment to our social currency to choose to interact in better forums. You won’t lose the people you actually care about, promise. Everyone else is just your cognitive heat sync.

Now that I’m done with the first phase of deleting things, I’m left with this weird middle ground – the people I talk to regularly I have culled, as I have better ways of contacting them. The names I don’t recognize are gone. It’s like being in a dream… this weird hodge-podge of “don’t I know you from somewhere?” and “you look so familiar” and “I feel like we went to the same event one time, and had an amazing conversation over beers after.”

Monkeys

I’m upset at culture.

c'mere, culture, let me hug you

Let me rephrase that. I am *furious* at culture. I am pissed off that I can’t go play, that it has so much to do with gender roles, and so little to do with the actual people involved.

First, let me set the stage: most of my interactions are within geek subculture. There are certainly some appalling gender ratios in most geek space, with “Sausage Fest” being a common term. That’s fine. I get along better with people who have been socialized to be outspoken, physical, and crass – ie, more masculine than feminine types. And I’ve talked before about constructing Safe Space. And long ago (so long ago it was on LiveJournal) about being a being in a woman’s body who also happens to be precocious, comfortable in sexuality, and tactile – and the assumptions that go along with that (that assumption being that I Want To Bone You — I don’t). But it’s come up again – the falsely inverse-d relationship between sexuality and respect. Something I said in a recent interview (published soonish, methinks):

I think it’s totally appropriate to find intelligent people attractive, and that the best potential dates ARE your equals. The issue is that there’s this separation of sexualization and respect. They should be completely independent OR have positive correlation, but instead they seem to have a negative correlation in our culture. IE, if someone finds me hot, they are also likely to care less about listening to my ideas. For me, it boils down to consent. If I consent to being hit on by someone I am also attracted to, that’s awesome. If someone continues to hit on my after I have made it clear I’m not interested (either in them, in dating within that social group, or in dating in general), then it’s *not* cool.

What brings this up is being a “free agent” in my social groups has meant that some people have turned their focus on me. And while I’m flattered by the attention, it kind of sucks socially. The attracted people who don’t know me well either discount my ideas in lieu of trying to get into pants, or the idealization of physicality trumps the interest in ideas. Those who know me AND like those ideas tend to play a game, knowingly or not, about declaring intellectual territory via sexual or romantic advances on me. And those who actually like me and my ideas and who don’t play those games I STILL can’t associate with because the social response has to do with the first two sets of people (see me with partner, either discount any brainmeats I have or assume I’m at play in a game).

Respect for people while sexualizing them is only difficult because our culture makes it so. Beauty vs Brains is, clearly, a false dichotomy. But it’s one we still have to deal with while we murderize it. And I have no idea how to live my life in a way that tears down those stigmas while not being (non-consensually) objectified.

Monkeys piss me off. Maybe I shouldn’t listen to Sex At Dawn as I do my dishes and walk around Seattle. Gah!

What I can do right now is work on having more women in geek space. I feel like brute-forcing the problem, to say it in a very awful way. Care to join me?

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence

I made a post to Twitter last night about how I was thinking more and more that Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintencence is a crock of bullshit. Which sucks, because Sirus got me a copy with lovely graphic art on the cover7. While I summed up my response to “but why?!?!!!@” with a <140 character "Main Character Complex", here is the longer explaination. First, a disclaimer or two: I’m “reading” this via Audible, which I love. I do not have page numbers, but I can get you minute markers. And I have not finished it. One of my greatest joys of no longer being in school is that when a book sucks, I can put it away – I don’t have to finish it. So if he learns some great lesson, or the focus shifts or something, let me know and I’ll actually keep reading.

What at last did me in, so far as not being able to listen to any more: his discourse on Science. About how all science is ineffectual because (as his “ghost” narrative device discovered) so many hypothesis are born as you test the first one, and there’s no way to test them all, so you create this whole set of unknowns. And as science is about creating truths, and you can’t test all of them…
Wait, what? Science is about creating truths? Someone hasn’t been looking at science. Science is about proving things false. Something is considered true (but not a law) until you’re able to disprove it. Laws (like gravity) are so morally independent, so long established (ie, tested against), and so universal that Scientific Law basically equals Taken As Granted.5

This is just one example of the underlying viewpoint that upsets me about this book. “Oh, look at this insight I have. I am so clever. You should examine your world, too. Question things!” Which yes, you should constantly be questioning the things around you, but for fuck’s sake, the “insights” provided are bullshit, and unless you spend as much time (if not more) examining your own assumptions, questioning the world around you just becomes a wank session. And one that ends in loneliness and The Crazy, not what wank sessions should end with, IMHO.

So this brings us closer to my own insight about the book, and the narrator1. He’s a narcissistic piece of shit. Oh sure, he speaks about different methods of inquiry, but his language and approach are seeping with judgements about those methods. His “inquiry into values” is always in relation to his own set of values, and there is always implied (or stated) moral high ground.

And maybe this wouldn’t bother me so much, but for recent life interactions, and a long-lived pet peeve of mine: Main Character Syndrom. This is my own way of explaining narcissism without bringing up that loaded word. People with this syndrom believe that they are the main character. Anyone they interact with is simply filling a supporting role. Every interaction, every discussion, -everything- has to do with them. Because why else would it be happening? Common symptoms include taking everything personally, being confused when people act “out of character,” or having unreasonable expectations.

A sub category of this is what I lovingly refer to as Narrator Syndrom, where an individual realizes they’re not the Main Character but still imparts their world view on the interactions they have with others. Symptoms include imposing moral values3 and assuming purpose/projecting omnipitence4.

A solution:
Realize everyone is full of stories. Their own. That range from completely —completely— to mostly not about you. At all. Have nothing at all to do with you. An individual – one individual – has lived an entire life of experiences. Their life is just as (if not more) complicated as your own. Each individual is (mostly) internally consistent, has a set of values and goals which are legitimate (to them), given those experiences. Now think about how many other people live in your house, your apartment building, your neighborhood block. So many stories! AND YOU GET TO SHARE WITH THEM. We get to interact, to use that wealth of experience, to build our world. And that is what makes that individual insignificance so phenomenal. We are so much greater than the sum of our parts, as individuals and as a super organism.

1. I accept that the narrator might be the author’s own way of trying to get people to come to the realizations that I speak about here, so far as the meta level, narcissism, and examination. But if that’s what he’s going for, I already get it, and listening to someone experience it just hurts my fucking faith in humanity.
2. (Yes, I know there’s no 2 up there). I also hated Catcher in the Rye. Self-involved bitchfest. Whine whine whine with no constructive action in site.
3. Morals as opposed to ethics, which are malleable and socially based as opposed to dogmatic. One of the few things Freud was not completely bat shit about.
4. The assumption of knowing where the plot is going/all the factors in any interaction, so any other viewpoint is null.
5. I am not at all saying science should not be questioned. That is, after all, what it is for6. It is imperative to question the cultural assumptions which support some scientific analysis. And what we as a culture value of course dictates what we even DO science to.
6. Well, actually it’s for describing things which exist, but whatever.
7. <3 to Sirus, who gave me the disclaimer that he hadn't read it, but liked the art and thought it might be about motorcycles, which I do like.
8. (Yes, another footnote without a reference to it). All the individualism in my last paragraph is not to get postmodern on you. Through SCIENCE (also see above) we are able to know we have a shared reality and that we must interact within it. The point I’m getting at there is that all the individual pieces are separate but interactive. There’s a reason I have “we are the machine” tattoo’d down my back – we are all interconnected, and through that interconnection, our superorganism is self-guided.

And since this post is already so incredibly long, here is a video to make me not be so ranty, which beautifully sums up a lot of that wonder and interconnection. Thanks, melodysheep!

Bullying

Being involved in education means I’m always in conversations about bullying. Hell, being on the internet means there are always conversations about bullying. My viewpoint is apparently somewhat radical – I don’t think the bullies are the problem that need to be addressed. Here’s why: there will always be assholes in the world. There will always be people who project their own insecurities, or have a need for power, or what have you. Always. You cannot stop them.

What you can do is teach others the how and why of standing up for themselves.

Some background slash an anecdote: my dad wrestled us as children. We were never afraid of having hands laid upon us, the only thing was to figure out how to react. While I was slight of figure and certainly an outcast, I never dealt with bullying. This was not because there were no bullies, but because I was not afraid of a fight. Sure, the other party might win but I would inflict some major damage on my way down (which is, incidentally, how I also play chess).

I could ramble on and on about this. But basically, it boils down to people trying to end bullying are looking at the finger instead of what it’s pointing at.

the verbage of comfort

There was recently a thread on the Jigsaw mailing list (daVinci) about reclaiming the Monday Math-Meet-Up. Horray! The goal was to have a more approachable set of topics, rather than esoteric and difficult. The first name thrown out was Math Porn. Most people were very into the idea of the event, but there was some back-and-forth about the name.

Just to be clear – I adore both Maths and Porn. But a maker space is not the place for such a name. The argument was basically that the name was very clear about the event being fun, accessible, and enjoyable. It would also be sure to attract a very specific group of people – those who were advanced enough in their understanding of society and the like to find the name amusing.

My response was as follows:

Yes, it would bring in a more specific group. But here’s the thing.

Women and minorities are appallingly underrepresented in geek communities. And it’s in part because many geek men (usually upperclass white dudes) do things like have specific panels for “women in tech” or crack jokes about sex in the openings to their talks. Makerbots are commonly named after women because “they’re full of glitches and problems.” Porn is stimulating, porn is fun, but porn is also a convoluted term to use in the context of larger society.

While I know that you are of the dark-humor persuasion (like myself) and understand that pornography tends to be an indulgence in intellectual wank sessions, the majority of people do not know that.
A pasty-making class is ok. DIY strap-ons are ok. It is very clear what people are signing up for, and it is indicative of subject matter, not the approach. Math Porn is not clear what environment people are entering into, and while I fully invest in the transdisciplinary ideology of Jigsaw, going the route of tried-and-true alienation is not acceptable.

I had also had a conversation with a gentleman today who is designing a new bike (450cc at about 80lbs – get your head around that one) and how it was more accessible to women. He also did a fantastic job of making it clear it wasn’t “For Women,” for that makes female-identified individuals feel pandered to, and men won’t buy it because they are insecure in their sexuality and feminity is seen as a bad thing.

When you make a separate space for us, you alienate us. When you tell us what we want or need, you belittle us. And when you expect all women to be “post-sexism,” you are being blind to what our everyday existance is like. Yes, things are better. But these places that are meant to be inclusive, meant to give people a handle on their own lives, and certainly to be a safe space, to treat exchanges oblivious of history and context is still an asshole move.

Some awesome stuff to imbibe:

Some thoughts on Exit Through the Giftshop

Watched Exit Through the Giftshop with Pip, Monica, and Josh last night. Thoroughly enjoyed it – the humor, involvement, art, story. Dialoge natural enough to be an actual documentary, clever enough to make you question if it actually is.

I took two main thoughts from it. I don’t think they get along with each other, but here goes:
1) MBW is a manifestation of the graffiti community as seen from people in other arts communities. It’s pulling from previous iterations of artistic ability to do something many see as degenerate and/or offensive.
2) Graffiti is like hacking in the way parkour is like hacking. Breaking systems other people take for granted. But a web dev taking the course of actions a hacker did months before is not hacking. It’s working on a (newly) established structure. That to me is the difference between MBW and the artists he looked up to. But because he wanted to be perceived as one of those artists instead of as his own thing, he didn’t hack (way of making things work in an unexpected way) but rather was a hack (someone who throws together shit content in order to have content). (See the internet for copious examples of both).

Now onto graffiti. I grew up in a family of architects and German engineers. I believe architecture lives up to the term “frozen music” it used to be called. It is art. And whether or not art itself should be defaced is a whole other argument as it involves grey areas of history, politics, new artistic statements, etc etc. That’s why art is so fascinating to me – because it is so fraught with nuance.

But then there’s all this architecture out there that’s crap. Or abandoned. Or both. And I love graffiti on that. It’s like dumpstering a plank or a canvas someone else did some attempt of art on and doing something new, something yours, on it. I’ll leave you with this, because I think it’s amazing. And please do watch Exit, if you haven’t already.

Flags and Boxes

Flags become boxes.

That’s the end point of this post. That, and I love people.

So I hang out with this group of people. And the diagram of us/them looks sort of like this. Many of us/them have had a variety of relationships with each other, and things would be what most call “complicated” if not for compersion, Telling It Like It Is, and loving each other enough to call bullshit. Trying to bust out the diagram every time I tried to explain my social structure to others got kind of cumbersome, though, so when someone started using the word “Tribe” to describe the mish-mash, I went for it. “Tribe” was used as a mailing list tag, to make sure I got everyone I usually invited to parties, plus or minus a few on what sort of party/event it was.

The issue is, of course, that having been named, it became an entity to some. Something to belong to or not to belong to, a [set] group of people. The flag which was waved to say “look at how amazing life is, this warm fuzzy feeling!” turned into a box into which some people went (and therefore others didn’t).

You can imagine the drama that unfolded. Or maybe you can’t. Thing is, I don’t give a damn for it. And explaining to someone that they feel excluded because they used a term in a different way is difficult. It means I’m the “cold” one because I refuse to buy into a system which excludes people by default, when they wanted an apology for being excluded. Cue cognitive dissonance. And that’s another “us and them,” isn’t it? Those who get it and those who don’t.

It’s the same issue a friend of mine had, when she was trying to find a lady-friend. She said Seattle has too many lesbians and not enough women. People who wrap themselves up in a Thing To Be end up only expressing one part of themselves. And I’m sorry, but I like the diversity of people. I love how different, sometimes at-odds, aspects of individuals play within themselves. I want to see that unfold. And if you’re not up to it, that’s ok, but you damn well better not assume I will also only be one thing in life. I contain multitudes (, bitches).

So I welcome you all to embrace the messiness of life, and not to be upset when some things don’t work out while others do. There’s enough in the world for everyone to be happy. Insert other phrases of hard-won wisdom here. Just breathe, all else will follow.

spam tornado

Know all these bots on Twitter that auto follow you based on things you say, or that might autofollow you back? I have this dark hope that some sort of AI comes out of that – trends tracked and logged, ways people speak, all in a self-referencing and perpetuating cyclone of spam. Maybe the scammers will feed off of the “social media experts” will feed off of the coupon bots will feed off the RT bots. The idea brings me a perverse sort of joy, don’t know quite why.
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When you’re preaching the choir, everything sounds good. Many marketers follow other agencies and “gurus” to see what they’re up to. What trick have they figured out? What can I learn from them? And because marketing is so much about being noticed, it’s easy to do research when every new method is delivered straight to your inbox.
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But that means it’s also delivered to my box. And I don’t want it. In fact, I’m willing to actively fight it. Why? Well, at a most basic level, I think consumer culture has detracted from our ability to relate to each other as people. It’s damaged our values, our goals, and our homes. But that’s a really big set to cover, so right now we’re just going to talk about a small subset of that.
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Marketers today invade your privacy in two ways: in regards to your information, and in regards to your personal space. Information is something you can control to at least some extent – if you don’t give out your information, they can’t use it. However, it’s also their responsibility to keep the fuck out of social forums aimed at being social (facebook is constructed to monetize on your interests. Expect to be marketed to. My blog is constructed for exchange of ideas, which is why I moderate solicitous comments to not be posted).
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It’s when information is gained in shady ways (pulling from a cc list, from an information page, from a business card exchange) that the privacy being infringed upon is one of space. It’s *my* inbox, and just like my blog, it is not a forum for marketing. Yes, the information existed on the t00bs, but it was not offered in exchange for some deal or because I’m truly interested in what you are up to. As in all things, consent is key, and such use of information is nonconsensual.
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So I encourage you, as always, to fight back. Remember returning spam mail with postage paid, just because it fucked with their system? Find a new way to do that. I like to peruse until I find a personal contact of someone high up in the company, and tell them I find their business practices shady (or “shitty,” depending on mood) and that it makes me question their quality as a human being. Because it is, and it does. Too mean? Too bad. Maybe if you didn’t base your own legitimacy on others buying your product you wouldn’t be so sensitive.
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In the meantime, go play in your cyclone of drivel, to figure out how to better market to other marketers. But your tactics have no place in our corner of the web. If you find a way to actually contribute to the conversation and community, we’ll welcome you back. Until then, fuck off. I leave you all with this Banksy quote:
People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you. You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity. Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head. You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.