February 2007 Archives

February 26, 2007

Raising the Bar

After a sobering approximation of my fitness at a recent health fair, I've been really conscious about my weight, diet, and physical activity. I'm managed to dredge myself from the mattressed grave and get into the gym in the mornings again, and I've given myself a target deadline--my trip to Costa Rica at the end of March.

One problem still remains. I have no fuel to fire my workout. When I was younger, I would pour out my angst, my frustrations, my will to achieve into my workout and push myself to the next level. Nowadays, I realize that my life really must be pretty good, as all of those things are in short supply.

The ultimate proof of this was evidenced today. I threw some weight on the bar for bench pressing. Roughly a hundred pounds, not a problem. For the next set, I wanted to push myself, so I added 50 pounds. Lifted the bar with ease, slowly descended....and at that point realized that I wasn't really interested in pushing that much weight back up.

As a fellow member came over and helped me lift the weight off my chest, I had a flashback of, say, ten years ago. A time when I weighed about 30 pounds less and regularly lifted about 30 pounds more. I used to tell my friends, who would nod in agreement, "It's just a matter of survival...every person should at least be able to bench his/her own weight." A deflated ego is a terrible thing to experience.

The disturbing element for me is that I don't think that I was incapable of pushing that bar back up. I believe the energy required to do that is still inside me. So why can't I tap into it, even at a time of general emergency like that? It makes me wonder if I'd be able to do something if the moment demanded it. Moreover, the link between mind and body....would my brain do the same if placed under duress?

February 25, 2007

decoding life note by note

Unintelligent Design

Guernica / Unintelligent Design

I wrote about two types of beauty, one that is singular, planned, and imposed, the other that is manifold, unplanned, and accumulated slowly over time through historical layering. It’s this second type that is being destroyed in Chinese cities through the narrowing of history in order to build the present. Now, since China is in transition, there are still places where you can see a layering of history, but as these get destroyed, and others “preserved”—that is, rebuilt so that they become a very specific idea from the present of what the past should be—they become rarer and rarer.

Hu Jintao is now instructing the country to build a “harmonious society,” an umbrella concept that is related to this singular, planned idea of beauty, and that encompasses all the trends China has been pushing for: channeling society into the dominant idea of how it should be organized, unifying culture at the expense of contradiction and difference, and directing opinion at the expense of dissent. I experienced one manifestation of this harmonious society in Inner Mongolia, where I ate at a Mongolian restaurant whose attendants, all Chinese, in Mongolian dress, were singing “I am a Mongolian,” in Chinese. And this push for harmony translates into the shape of China’s cities. Cities in China are becoming increasingly uniform, increasingly designed around sustaining the engine of the market by creating the framework for a consumer-oriented society.

I don’t, however, think the possibility for beauty can be foreclosed, because beauty can take so many forms. I’ve only talked about two forms. There is beauty that arises from the unexpected, when our familiar perspectives are thrown off balance. There is also the beauty that paradoxically comes out of the tragic, that emerges because we are reminded of what is no longer there, that becomes powerful because of what is absent.

This is where I think when I think about my love/hate relationship with planned communities. I love the natural transmogrification of old cities and am loathe to be in a place that tries to organize everything. Yet at the same time I am of the perception that our luxurious increase of suburban sprawl is a bane to society and should be replaced by building--deliberately--"upward" instead of outward. Not that every world should be filled with skyscrapers, but instead that every space should be deliberately thought out and maximized.
Can these two beauties co-exist? be sure to look at the photos in this interview and then ask that question again.

pink rabbit & beaver

pink rabbit & beaver, originally uploaded by lomokev.

illegal immigrant theme park?

BBC NEWS | Programmes | From Our Own Correspondent | Mexico's 'Migrant Mountain'

Millions of migrants have crossed illegally from Mexico into the United States. Their experience could hardly be more real. But now at a controversial theme park in Mexico, tourists can pretend to be an illegal migrant.

Thoughts on football violence

Obscene Desserts: Middle-class hero?

There is, of course, nothing new about the connection between football and violence, a relationship going well back before the sport was professionalised in the late 19th century. It so happens that I’m currently reading a fascinating book by sociologists Norbert Elias and Eric Dunning, Quest for Excitement: Sport and Leisure in the Civilizing Process (London: Basil Blackwell, 1986).

I haven’t gotten to the articles (mainly by Dunning, who has specialised on the sociology of sport) which give detailed attention to the association between violence and football, but I’ve run across some interesting things in Elias’s introduction. As in his other work, he emphasises the growing necessity, over centuries of development, for the self-control of emotions and urges in what he refers to as ‘civilising processes’. The growing ‘pacification’ of society is on the one hand, positive; it can, however, also be frustrating, as opportunities for relatively free emotional expression are lessened. In Quest for Excitement, sport is seen as an important arena for the ‘controlled de-controlling of emotions’ and its ‘mimetic’ conflicts stand in for those which in earlier ages were – relatively speaking – far more a part of real life. However, it’s not that simple and benign.

February 20, 2007

Hyori gets stood up

Lee Hyori窶冱 tardiness upsets reporters ォ POPSEOUL! entertainment, style and beauty in seoul

Korea’s pop icon, Lee Hyori is infamous for her tardy arrivals and her first press conference for her upcoming single and drama “Love like them” was no exception. The press conference and the showing of the drama shooting was originally scheduled to be held on February 15 at 7 pm, but…

The picture of Hyori alone is worth linkage in my book. Allow me to break up my serious tone with some wonderful Schadenfreude. Popseoul is my new favorite site!

Murder at the Capitol

Murder | MetaFilter

Murders in Baltimore City/Washington D.C., displayed on Google's map of the area: 2005, 2006, 2007.

Homicide, more accurately. I'm feeling little consolation that my neighborhood was homicide-free in all cases. How do you rectify such a blatant problem?

What Iraq Tells Us About Ourselves

Foreign Policy: What Iraq Tells Us About Ourselves

To be blunt, our foreign policy tends to be predicated on the notion that everyone wants to be an American. In the months leading up to the start of the Iraq War, it was common to hear seemingly educated people say that the Arabs, particularly Iraqis, had no way of life worth saving and would be better off if all “that old stuff”—their traditions, social institutions, and values—were done away with, and soon. The U.S. Armed Forces and U.S. Agency for International Development would be the sharp swords of modernization in the Middle East.

How did Americans come to believe that the entire world is embarked on the same voyage, and that we are the navigators showing the way to a bright future? Our own culture is a rich blend, brewed from such elements as enlightenment, optimism, Puritan utopianism, a Calvinist tendency to not forgive sinners, and the settler’s lack of respect for the weak and “native” peoples of the world. In the United States, such threads have pushed us to believe that we are all in a melting pot of common ideology. This belief system has been fed to us in the public schools, through Hollywood, and now in the endless prattle of 24-hour news networks. It has become secular religion, a religion so strong that any violation of its tenets brings instant and savage condemnation. So called “neoconservatism” isn’t some kind of alien ideology; it’s merely a self-aware manifestation of the widespread American belief that people are all the same. The repeated assertion by U.S. President George W. Bush that history is dominated by the existence of “universal values” is proof in the pudding.


Fugitive - Jim Dwyer - New York Times

For more than a decade, Orlando Boquete lived as a fugitive, his very identity a shackle he slipped out of, again and again. He hid bits of sandpaper in his wallet so that in a pinch, he could abrade his fingerprints. Every bit as revealing as the ridges of his fingers, the ordinary, reflexive responses to his own name — a grunt, a sideways glance, a shifting foot — also vanished under the grind of fugitive life. It was as if someone had suddenly clapped hands in front of his eyes and he did not blink. Standing still, not saying yes or hello or uh-huh became a martial art.


messenger, originally uploaded by anzyAprico.

February 18, 2007

spiders, pyramid doors

Recently I've been battling a bit of depression; perhaps "allowed self-pity" would be a more accurate term. I tend to avoid too much personal meandering here just for the sake of your sanity, but I've really been thinking a lot in this gloom and it does pertain to what I'm studying/talking about in this medium with regularity.

Humans, by nature, are social creatures. My fascinations with social networks is that it is the means by which we are social. But what happens when those networks sour?

Be it sudden realization or a recent bout of paranoia, I've recently felt my value in many of the networks that I'm a part of has been undervalued. People are always asking for my input, seeking my involvement, wanting me to help. Yet many times my advice is not utilized, my efforts meet indifference, and my assistance is not regarded.

I'm not asking for public appreciation. I am not interested in popularity or in being known. In the last few weeks, I've struggled to rally the collaborators on a project that was set to launch in January; I've created a private, well-poised forum for thought which has not generated the support that its concept did; I've accomplished some significant occupational projects that far outstretch my job description; I've been elected by organizational peers to lead a new initiative and had not one attendee at the first meeting called; I've juggled my full-time work and full-time school to maintain some level of interaction with my social acquaintances. None of these things has even seemed to have been noticed by anyone but me.

I picture a pyramid-type diagram when I think of what is now an outdated model of how information and work was distributed and done. In today's method, I think the diagram is more akin to a spider's web--information being received from a number of locations and combined/developed in an exponentially greater number of ways/directions. If I look at my own situation with the self-pitying glasses I'm currently wearing, perhaps I embody the door to the pyramid or the spider in the web, respectively.

The door to the pyramid is the least-marveled element of the structure. While it often determines input/output of information/work into the system, it is generally not listed as a contributor to progress. Additionally, because of its dissimilarity with the methods of its peers--combined with its tendency to be placed in the place which is least necessary to structural support--the door to the pyramid can be easily forgotten altogether.

The spider is the reason why the web exists. It establishes the framework, makes the necessary connections, and bridges gaps and weakening ties. At the moment that connections have been made, the spider is of no importance to the web. the web functions on its own--ideally, for the benefit of the spider. Only fate and time can ultimately tell, however, if the web will work in the spider's favor or not. As one who grew up in a rural environment, I've personally considered the spiderwebs of many a dead/absent spider.

I like making silly analogies. The problem, however--what keeps me in this negative funk--is how to improve my situation. In both examples, choice is not given to roles played; is this true of our social networks? Do we choose how we want to interact or are our roles given?

If you find you have time, I'd be interested in hearing what your idea of a social network's structure is, how you see your role in it, and what can be don to alter the role once it no longer is effective. Is extrication the only answer?

Britta Bohne

MoCo Loco: IMM Cologne 2007 Inspired: Britta Bohne

Why hide cable clutter when you can embrace it and make it an integral part of your environment? The cable's path is cut into the carpet, but there's also an insert that the cable snaps into to hold it in place.

It's things like this that make me tilt my head sideways and say, "wow, how can something so obvious be so revolutionary?" I enjoy tilting my head sideways. :)

February 12, 2007

Conversations with a burglar

Personal Finance Advice - » The Best Place To Hide Money: Conversation With A Burglar

I started off simply and was not surprised by the answer to the question "€œwhere is the best place to hide your money?"

"€œAt the bank,"€ he said with a sly grin.

Insurgencies rarely win

Foreign Policy: Insurgencies Rarely Win – And Iraq Won’t Be Any Different (Maybe)

The cold, hard truth about the Bush administration’s strategy of “surging” additional U.S. forces into Iraq is that it could work. Insurgencies are rarely as strong or successful as the public has come to believe. Iraq’s various insurgent groups have succeeded in creating a lot of chaos. But they’re likely not strong enough to succeed in the long term. Sending more American troops into Iraq with the aim of pacifying Baghdad could provide a foundation for their ultimate defeat, but only if the United States does not repeat its previous mistakes.

There was an Economist piece recently that said largely the same thing. I tend to agree. I wonder if most people are really thinking about Iraq when they make their assumptions on the war. I'm not really sure what they're thinking about.

February 9, 2007

Confieso que he vivido

Confieso que he vivido, originally uploaded by nicointhebus.

Tapping the Power of Your Morning Routine

Tapping the Power of Your Morning Routine : Yahoo! Finance

Steve Murphy, CEO of publishing company Rodale, says, "A line in a William Blake poem inspired me to think differently about my day: ‘Think in the morning, act in the noon, read in the evening, and sleep at night.' This has made a huge difference in my life. Now, I take out a yellow pad every morning and write my thoughts for the day, which allows me to be much more strategic and proactive than reactive."

I really like this concept. I'm not sure I can really implement it since I attend classes in the evenings, but the premise seems ideal.

February 8, 2007

How to be good

O'Reilly Radar > Good Grief

He continued: "I was reading about violent death and I saw that Americans lead the industrialized countries in violent death. But if you consider suicide violent death, then it evens out because Europeans are very likely to take violent action against themselves. So Americans want to take action, they say: I know how to fix your life. I'll kill you." Europeans say: "I know how to fix my life. I'll kill myself." When you take both, you find out that rate of violent death is the same in Europe and America."

"I'm trying to say that none of these American initiatives will succeed if there's no buy-in in the rest of the world. " So thus having buttressed his argument, he asked the panelists to describe what they are doing outside of America.

Now that's a panel worth listening to. I think Negroponte's response is intriguing, but I also think it avoided the bigger issue in a way: is doing what we think is right equivalent to doing "good"? Does "good" always transcend cultural philosophies? If not, do we force our "good" upon others who may not see it as such?

February 6, 2007

Love Train

Wired 15.01: Posts

Readers anxiously hit Refresh as Train Man updated them in real time during that awkward phone call. (A typical post: "DINNER! WHERE?") Then the 2Channel community became his crowdsourced dating adviser: "Get enough sleep, cut your nose hair, have breath mints, charge your cell phone, brush your teeth, take enough money, take a shower, and – in case of an emergency – wash your penis properly."

Whither Twitter?

Adactio: Journal - Whither Twitter?

So if Twitter isn’t much good as a collaborative communication tool and all I really use it for is to broadcast my current state of mind, newcomers to the service might rightly ask, “what’s the point?”