centering & creating opportunity out of crisis

First, it was at an event put on by the Asia Foundation where I was speaking. I met a leading feminist and human rights organizer from Mongolia who put on the first production of the Vagina Monologues there (and to much controversy).

Later that week, I spent three days with two fellow digital rights nerds in the Sierras. We cooked, explored, chatted, and made sense of our community with each other. Both of them incredibly hard-working, passionate, hilarious, and thoughtful people.

With them, I visited and slept in an old schoolhouse of a ghost town recently purchased by a woman my age, who was one of the most gorgeous, elegant people I’ve met. She’s re-building this long deserted town into a sustainable community centered on organic farming. So far it’s inhabited by a dozen or so happy humans, dogs, goats, pigs, and chickens.

I had lunch with one of my colleagues who I consider an influential mentor. She almost single-handedly built an international project to create legal principles that would guide surveillance policies so that they could fall in line with international human rights. It has been too long since we hung out and talked about life.

All of this came after spending the last few weeks reading the entirety of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything. The book blew my mind in its comprehensive explanation of why climate change is an urgent crisis that must be addressed immediately, but in the same vein, an opportunity to re-think many aspects of governance, the economy, and the ideologies that underpin both social structures. She manages to make someone, like me, who has peripherally cared about this issue into an evangelist for direct action against carbon-based fuels and demand subsidies for renewable energy programs.

These past few weeks, I’ve encountered these and other inspiring women who are putting their all into fixing this broken mess of a world in varied but individually stunning ways. Despite how fucked things seem lately, thinking about them and their work help me shake off the despair and get to work. Just as Naomi would say, we can take a crisis and turn it into an opportunity. Whether or not they’d admit themselves, these individuals are doing this through their day-to-day work and are committed to making things more just and sustainable.

I’m preparing myself for a busy few months as TPP negotiators may announce tomorrow morning that they’ve concluded this sprawling trade deal once and for all. If they do, I’ll be laser-focused on killing this agreement dead because it goes against everything I believe in. I hope to soon do more work that involves building towards positive, equitable institutions, rather than having to fight this bullshit neo-liberal/private-interest-captured policies. But in this crisis, I’ll be looking for new opportunities. In this work, I’ll try and emphasize ways of organizing that will make people feel more connected and responsible to their society and global community. Who knows what the hell that looks like but I’m gonna do my darnedest and I’ll take a cue or two from these bad ass women who’ve come into my orbit.

rise of the third place

The late architect Victor Gruen is called the grandfather of the American mall.

It was distressing for him to see people increasingly consumed by the automobile in the 1950’s and 60’s. He said: “their threat to human life and health is just as great as that of the exposed sewer.” Yup, he *hated* cars. So he wanted to bring cohesion to the suburbanite lifestyle by giving rise to a “third place,” outside the home and workplace. He wanted to build mixed-use spaces that could serve as a place for leisure and community.

He eventually became disgusted by the very thing he helped create—these climate-controlled private spaces, national monuments to American consumerism.


We celebrated him, and the rise and fall of the modern mall, on Gruen Day yesterday at the Bayfair Center in San Leandro. It was the fifth mall he had designed.

It seems to be an empty shell of what it once was. The woman who leads the management for the space repeatedly decried the use of the term “mall,” calling it a four-letter word in the industry. Everything the management does now is geared towards de-malling. They want to gut it and completely re-design the interior so it can house offices, maybe even residences.

Gruen, who gave rise to the mall and became one of its fiercest critics, would probably be thrilled to see this happen to his own creation.

p.s. ICYMI: 99% Invisible did a great episode about him.


Picking up where he left off

I’d only met Aaron Swartz once on the couches of the EFF office during the 2nd week of my new job. I had no idea who he was during that very brief exchange, but I went to my browser afterward and looked up his name. When I read about his work and the roles that he had played in freeing information and knowledge, I felt like an idiot for not having heard of him before. I was in awe of his dedication and inspired by the courageousness of his acts. I really looked forward to when I could get another chance talk to him again.

There are so many things wonderful about the hacking community…the celebration of curiosity, the open-mindedness to acknowledge the interconnectedness of things, but most of all, the ethic of seeing a problem and doing what you can to fix it. Learning about his life and reading about the kind of person that he was, it seems Aaron embodied so fully what I find so beautiful about the hacker spirit. His craft was coding, but his intellect was the fuel for his art: creating tools, building campaigns, and demonstrating acts of civil disobedience that were meant to expose deep societal, political flaws. To me, he represented the quintessential 21st century activist.

The more I delve into the world of intellectual property, the more I learn about its intricate failures and abuses. The amount of distrust, insecurity, and greed that is continually involved in the creative-industrial complex, and worse, the fact that they claim to do it in the name of furthering progress, is horribly nauseating.

Despite all of this, I know that the movement to free culture and information will win, not just because the old edifices of creative production and academic publishing are already crumbling. But more importantly, the movement is full of brilliant, committed people who are fighting for justice and the liberty of culture.

On Friday, we lost one of our very best. The amount of public outpouring of grief is a testament to the amount of love everyone had for him and everything that he stood for. And maybe he hadn’t been feeling it, or didn’t know to ask for it, but it’s obvious that it was there all along.

When we’re fighting a system that seems so rigged, so ethically rotten to its core, it’s really hard not to fall into a cycle of despair. With Aaron’s tragic passing and the sudden public revelation of the gross maltreatment of him by the justice system, these horrific events serve as a rallying call for this movement to pick up where he left off. That begins by finding the courage to face up to the powerful, institutionalized system of insecurity and greed, and do so in whatever form that may take. We also need to remember to be fair to ourselves, and knowing our limits so that we don’t burn ourselves out. We need to be able to trust and support each other enough to ask for and give help whenever we can.

Let’s keep working until we recognize a world we, and he, would want to live in.

RIP Aaron Swartz (1986-2013)

pickle juice.

Someone just sent me this video of Nicki Minaj from a documentary that aired almost 2 years ago, something which is now on the top of my “shit to watch when I’m eating frozen food alone in my robe after a long day at work” list.

Yea, I wrote before about how much I’m still a big fan despite her new album being waaay off base. But I’m convinced more than evar that somewhere buried in there is this awesome, strong, bonkers woman. <3

Dear Old Nicki

(via Dallas Observer Blog)

Dear Nicki,

I’m a big fan of yours. I can honestly say that I get sick of most albums after about a month of thorough play, but your debut album Pink Friday is really something else. The songs are fun, sweet, and light, but with just enough heart to make me come back to them. But what I like about you and your music is your character: strong, goofy, sexy, mature, experimental, and confident. When I saw interviews with you, I felt like I wanted you to be my buddy. There aren’t any other female artists, let alone a pop star, I can think of who seemed as real with herself as you.

Having said that, I gotta say that I’m pretty damn disappointed with your new work. Believe me, I’ve tried to listen to it at least 10 times, and haven’t been able to warm up to it one bit. All your new songs, from Starships, Stupid Hoe, to Beez in the Trap. There’s something about it that’s completely missing the mark.

You know what I think is the problem? You felt your heart out of it. The whole album feels like an empty shell of overproduced noise with you rapping about fashion, hoes, and finding success. It’s both uninspired and uninspiring. There nothing about the album that sounds like it’s coming from you. I know you have an amazing voice and you do care about fashion, but if you want to take it to the next level, you need to show more of yourself (and no I’m not talking about your ass). Rapping is an art form that’s made to tell stories. So tell your god damn story. Let yourself express yourself and stop listening to whoever the hell at Young Money telling you what you need to do to top your last album because whatever it is that needs to be done, the only place you’re gonna find the answer is inside your beautiful head.

I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’m sick of artists doing shitty work because they think it’ll be popular, especially when they’ve got the skills and are completely capable of doing something better. I think you sold as many copies of Pink Friday as you did because you seemed like real person that people could relate to. Even if we only got to see small glimpses and traces of the real Nicki, it was still enough for people to want more.

So I know it’s too late this time around… you’ve gotta do what you gotta do to promote the crap out of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded and there’s nothing that can be done about that. But please, next time you go back to the recording booth, whether or not it’s your own song or another song you end up getting featured in, remember that people like you because it’s you. Because you just seemed like a cool fucking person. So go pick up a book, or watch a good movie, or do whatever it takes until you get inspired to tell it like it is. Write about the world, about your life, about something that’ll remind them why they should give a crap about you.

Please remind me what it looks like when I see a strong, goofy, sexy, mature, confident, cool ass woman. Be you, Nicki.

A loving fan,


P.S. I know this song wasn’t one of your biggest hits and the music video doesn’t make any sense, but this is still one of my favorite life anthems:

Nicki Minaj – Fly ft. Rihanna

"We have to re-imagine."

We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society.

When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
― Martin Luther King Jr.

I went to see Grace Lee Boggs and Angela Davis speak together in Berkeley last week, and I can’t say I’ve felt the same since.

It was a free event held at the student union at Cal as part of the Women of Color Conference being held that weekend. My sister and I got there more than an hour before the 4pm talk and there were already at least 500 people in line ahead of us. By 3:30, we were easily in the middle of the line. A line full of young and old, all waiting in anticipation for these two life-long revolutionaries to give us some perspective and direction to face the fucked up state of the world around us.

We were unfortunately one of the first ones to be put in the spill over room to watch the talk remotely, but I didn’t care once the talk began. As I watched these two incredible women drop their bits of wisdom left and right, my heart raced as I furiously took notes. They spoke about the socio-political state of the world in light of our long history as human beings…the problems in agriculture, democracy, sexuality, and our understanding of work and labor. But most importantly, they talked about revolution.

This weekend, I watched the entire talk and transcribed all the parts that struck me most (this may or may not have taken me more than a few hours to do…). Then I’ve edited down to some quotes that I thought were the most profound and mind-altering. I have a lot of new topics I plan to hash out from being shaken up by this talk, but I’ll save those for another day.

Grace Lee Boggs and Angela Davis speaking at Cal March 2012

First some short descriptions of these two revolutionaries:

Grace Lee Boggs (GLB), who is now 96 years old, is a Chinese-American philosopher-activist and feminist who has been involved in activism for over 60 years, working on civil rights, sustainability, and the economic struggles of her city of Detroit where she was lived for the past 50 years.

Angela Davis (AD) is famous for her activism against the prison-industrial complex. She was a Black Panther and active member of the US Communist Party, and is now a retired professor from UC Santa Cruz’s History of Consciousness department. The focus of her philosophy and activism centers around critical theory, feminism, African American studies, and Marxism.

Typed excerpts of their talk is below.


Grace Lee Boggs on the revolution:

The time has come for us to re-imagine everything.

We have to re-imagine work, away from labor. We have to re-imagine Revolution, and get beyond protests. We have to re-imagine revolution and think not only about changing our institutions, but the changes that we have to make in ourselves.

We are at the stage, where people in charge of the government, and of industry, are running around like chickens with their heads cut off. And it’s up to us to re-imagine the alternative and to not just protest against them and expect them to do better.

We are at the point of a cultural revolution in ourselves and in our institutions that is as far reaching as a transition from us hunting and gathering to agriculture 11 thousand years ago, and from agriculture to industry 200 years ago.

How do we re-imagine education? How do we re-imagine community? How do we re-imagine families? How do we re-imagine sexual identity? How do we re-imagine…everything? In light of a change that is so far reaching and that is our responsibility to make. We cant expect them to make it, we have to do the re-imagining ourselves. We have to think beyond capitalist categories. We have to re-imagine.

And how do we do that? We do that, I have found, by combining activism with philosophy. And that is why it’s so important that Angela and I are here on this platform. That we are both philosophic activists, we are both activist philosophers.

We can’t think anymore that all we have to do is to act, we have to do a lot of thinking. We have to do a lot of imagining. We have to do a lot of visionary organizing. We have to see every crisis as a both a danger and an opportunity. Its a danger because it does so much danger to our lives, to our institutions, to all that we have expected, but it’s also an opportunity for us to become creative. For us to become the new kind of people that are needed at such a huge period of transition. That’s why it’s so wonderful that we’re all here today!  So we can talk about revolution, in such fundamental terms.


How do we take advantage of high tech, to create a new mode of production? How do we use it make ourselves more self-reliant and productive? I mean, we have to re-imagine work. Work? We can’t talk about jobs anymore. We can’t beg for jobs or hope for jobs. And we have to recognize that jobs in the industrial period was actually a way of a fragmentation of our humanity. So then we rely on high wages, and consumer goods, to compensate for our dehumanization. We have to create forms of work that create community, and that expand our humanity. And that’s where we are. And that’s how we have to talk about revolution these days, and that’s how each of us, as we get rid of our all the old ideas of leadership or followship, and begin to use our imaginations to create the new.

We have been very lucky in Detroit. Out of the devastation, we have recognized the need to create a new post-modern, post-industrial society. We are doing that. And I urge you to come to Detroit this July, and get an idea of the shared experience of the American Revolution that we’re making. And to begin to do your own visionary organizing back in your own community.

We have the opportunity and we have the challenge at this period of the clock of the world, to create a new humanity and to create a new society, to create a whole new paradigm of education. We have to think of education as young people, not as the problem, but as the solution. We have to enlist them as the solutions to the problems of our community. As a whole new way of imagining youth and the relationships between generations. And that’s an enormous challenge. That’s an enormous task. And it’s up to you to do it. I’m very old. I’ve very hard of hearing. I’m very shaky on my feet. Thank goodness Charles is here, who’s captioning everything being said so I can read it. Because my eyesight is better than my hearing. And so..anyway that’s all I have to say.

Grace Lee Boggs on the difference between work and jobs:

It seems to me that we don’t need to only talk about the hours of work, but about the difference between the way women look at work, and the way you have a job. You have jobs that demean you, that dehumanize you, that fragment you, that make you a […] machine, and you make up for it by demanding higher wages or shorter hours. What we need is the kind of work that women do, not counting the hours, because they care. And that’s a real transformation from a patriarchal concept of work, and to a matriarchal concept of work. And that’s where we are.

I mean, we are so deeply fundamental in terms of our human identity at this moment, and until we’ve approached this moment, with that challenge in mind, we are going to get lost.

If we can think of work as what the artist does, in the love of the material and in the vision that he or she has, and instead of thinking of it as a way that we have colonized the materials, that we have colonized people, that we have colonized the earth…I mean the abuse that we have done not only to each other, not only to people of color, but to the earth and to ourselves, to our own humanity, has been horrendous. And to recognize that, how horrendous it has been and therefore the need to create an alternative that is more human, is the kind of revolution that we have to make. And with all the good the Occupy Wall Street movement has done, I don’t find that their language, their ideas, are profound enough. They are against the corporations…rightly. They are against the greed, and the avarice that corrupts our society. But the need to imagine an alternative, in philosophical and human terms. The need to grow our souls, and to say that proudly and unashamedly. To talk about the kind of tremendous human transformation we have to make. We must be courageous enough to think that way and to talk that way and to relate that way.

AD: But I do think that the Occupy phenomenon is important, but it isn’t a solution, it’s an opening. It’s a beginning.

GLB: How do we take advantage of the opening?

AD: Exactly! That’s the question. How do we take advantage of the opening?

Angela Davis on the Occupy movement:

One of the things I heard some people saying “oh there’s just a bunch of homeless people around the encampments.”  But why wouldn’t there be homeless people around the encampments?! I mean one of the things I thought was really important about that period when there were encampments in 900 cities around the world, was that people who were relatively affluent had to learn how to cohabit the same space with homeless people. And to begin to work through strategies of being together. And again I think that was a promise, that was a moment of promise, but I don’t know maybe I’m too, maybe I’m the inveterate optimist.

GLB: No I think you’re right. When we stopped just marching and began to stay in one place and to face the issues that were challenging, like the homeless, we could move our imaginations, of the new way of creating a harmonious society. We’re challenged. And that’s where we are. It’s a wonderful, wonderful  time to be alive!

Grace Lee Boggs on materialism and the state of agriculture:

How do we reintegrate the next generations? Let’s begin tomorrow to do those things, to do those very human things. To begin creating those relationships, those human relationships, that we need to evolve. To continue evolving. Let’s see that as our work. Martin Luther King said that”We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society.

Let’s take that as our challenge. How do we do that? How do we take responsibility for our all our security? How do we restore the neighbor to the hood? How do we take responsibility for growing our own food? Instead of depending on these huge corporations, which use all this gasoline to produce global warming, and to give us polluted, contaminated food with additives. These are very human questions. And the revolution needs to ask questions like that not just questions like how do I get more money?

Angela Davis:

It would be revolutionary to develop a habit of imagining the human relations and non-human relations behind all of the objects that constitute our environment.

Grace Lee Boggs on her concept of “growing our souls”:

I first used the concept of growing our souls about 10 years ago, in a speech, and radicals usually don’t talk about souls. I think we have to be courageous enough to be talking about what I mean by “soul”, that is the capacity to create the world anew, which each of us has. How do we talk about that with one another? Cause it’s important to talk, it’s not only important to act. When you talk you begin to create new ideas, you create new language. And we have all been damaged by this system. Not only the capitalist scoundrels who are the villains, we are all part of it, and we all have to change what we say, what we do, what we think, what we imagine.

Angela Davis:

In this era of neo-liberalism, we have all learned how to imagine ourselves as individuals. It is as if we have forgotten that we are always members of communities and I’m totally seduced by your notion of growing the soul, and growing a soul that experiences itself in the context of communities and collectivities. There is a tendency to think of ourselves as isolated individuals, and of course this is what the capitalists have achieved. Capitalism is grounded in that notion that the individual, that the possessive individual, is the primary unit of society. And if we are to move toward revolutionary approaches, we have to relearn.

Grace Lee Boggs on the issue of non-violence:

This relates to the topic of growing our souls…I was not a supporter of Martin Luther King during the early period, because I was more in Detroit, talking about black power, and Malcolm. But when violence began to break out among us, I think we had to be rethinking.

Why is non-violence such an important, not just a tactic, not just a strategy,  but an important philosophy? Because it respects the capacity of human beings to grow. It gives them the opportunity to grow their souls and we owe that to each other. And I used to think about it purely political narrow superficial terms. But you grow older, and you grow wiser.


You know, its a philosophic question. It’s not just a tactical question. When I was a sophomore in college, I decided to drop all my courses and take philosophy. If you’d asked me what philosophy was all about, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you, I was only in my late teens. But as I’ve grown older, I realized that philosophy has to do with how we value ourselves as human beings. And how we look at ourselves, and how we relate to reality. And it’s something that requires a lot of courage, because everybody else wants to act. […] If we think a great deal more, and talk a great deal more, we would have learned that out of the respect for ourselves, out of the respect for each other, nonviolence is something that we have to embrace. And it took me a long time to learn that.

Angela Davis on the issue of non-violence:

That’s a very complicated question for me. Because when we raise the question of non-violence, I think that in the very first place we have to acknowledge that the purveyors of the vast majority of violence in the world are the nation states with their vast militaries, the US government for example, Israel for example, and so I would like, yes we need non-violence. But I would say, let’s start by abolishing the military, and disarming the police. Because it seems to me that so much of the violence that we inflict on each other, is linked in some way or another to that institutional violence.

This is one of the wonderful insights of what has often been called women of color feminism. That private violence, or intimate violence, or privatized violence is very much connected to institutionalized violence. Violence in the streets are connected to violence in the sweets. Violence that happens in terms of sexual violence is linked to the fact that violence strategies are embraced by the corporations, by governments. So a truly revolutionary strategy would allow us to imagine abolishing violence in all of its manifestations.

Grace Lee Boggs:

How do we rebuild, how do we redefine, how do we re-spirit our communities and one another? That’s our challenge. And we can’t say, expect Obama, or Mitt Romney, whatever, to abolish the war in Afghanistan. I mean, they have put us in those wars, they have created the crisis, they are not gonna solve it. We’re the ones that have to solve it, by creating another kind of society, and take advantage of their helplessness and their powerlessness to do it.

Angela Davis on American democracy:

I’m gonna say something that may be a bit controversial, since we’re talking about revolution. I’m remembering, when Obama was elected, a little over three years ago. And that was a moment that was so incredible…or a few days, the whole world was transformed. Do you remember? And I keep telling myself that I have to remember what it felt like, to walk down the streets of Oakland, and people that you did not know were coming up to hug you. And people were singing in the streets, and dancing in the streets. Of course…we’ve forgotten that.

An enormous amount of grass roots organizing enabled that victory. That was not a victory of an individual, that was a victory of people all across this country who refused to believe that it was impossible to elect a person, a black person, who identified with the black radical tradition. Now everybody said it was not possible. A vast majority of black people, did not support Obama initially. They supported Hilary because Obama was unelectable. The problem was, that I think we all assumed that was all we had to do was elect him. And then go back to doing what we were doing before.

The reason why I said I would say something controversial, was because despite all of the disappointments, you know we could go on and on and on about what Obama has not done, and about Afghanistan, and about Guantanamo, and about healthcare, and all of that.


We need to figure out how to prevent someone like Mitt Romney from getting elected. I think that this time around, we have to engage in that campaign with our own eyes open, and I say that as someone who never voted for a candidate representing one of the major candidates until I voted for Obama. That was the very first time. I’d voted for Communist, Peace and Freedom, and Green, or whatever. I think that this time around we have to recognize that we’re not campaigning for any individual, we are campaigning for ourselves. Because, as June Jordan said, “We are the ones we have been waiting for” and we can’t go home after election night, and we can’t assume that all is well.

Grace Lee Boggs on dialectical thinking:

You know, the Civil Rights struggle was a tremendous victory, to be celebrated. But it created new contradictions: it created a black middle class, it created black legislators, it created black presidents…So how do we understand that every victory creates new and more challenging contradictions. How do we prepare for that? How do we always think dialectically, and recognize that one divides into two? Otherwise we get stuck. And that is why philosophy is so important. To think dialectically, not biologically, because the danger in our society is to think biologically.

Grace Lee Boggs:

I would like to encourage folks, of not only thinking dialectically and philosophically, but to also think more about our brains. About neuroscience. About the capacity we have to think anew, but we can only think that if recognize the tendency in the structure of our brains, to get fixed to old categories. To get locked into old concepts, and that’s why philosophy is really important. So I hope that everyone will emerge from this conversation thinking dialectically, thinking philosophically, thinking about growing our souls.


So there you have it. I personally think that their statements hold the seeds for a new turning point for the Occupy movement, and social and economic activism more broadly. The movement needs to stop being on the defensive. We need to start thinking of the alternative because it’s plain as fucking day that the status quo is not working and it’s only going to get worse if we stay the course. I think that the majority of people are sick of hearing how bad things are, how hopeless and corrupt government has become, and how voiceless they are within the current democratic process. Maybe it’s just as important to be on the defensive, to blow holes into massive concentrations of power, as it is to promote and create a new sustainable, secure, and more equitable alternate reality. From when I visited Occupy encampments, I saw a glimpse of that reality.  A reality in which people of the same community cared about their collective future, and cared enough to listen and to speak to each other about what’s going on…

Anyway, I’ll be blogging more about my various thoughts on this. It’s time for me to go to sleeeeeeep.

Watch the entire talk here (I suggest starting at the 2 min – 00:02:00 mark):


Happy revolutionizing!


Puttin' my money where my mouth is

Now despite being a digital rights activist by profession, I still consider myself an environmentalist, free software advocate, a critical news junkie, a sexual/reproductive health rights advocate, and a consumer of art and creative storytelling. I decided to support the following organizations to reflect my dedication to these causes, and to remind myself of the kick ass work these groups do.

Reporters Without Borders

As I’ve started to blog on freedom of expression issues in the broader Asian area for EFF, I’ve come to truly appreciate the invaluable work RWB is doing on the forefront of many critical global issues. I’ve cited to them countless times, and hope that they continue to do excellent professional journalism in the far-reaches of the world.

Democracy Now!

I recently started listening to Democracy Now’s War and Peace report every morning and I really don’t think you can beat their domestic and international coverage of important political news. Bless their souls for not filling their hour with distracting analysis and all the other useless rhetorical crap that comes with most news outlets. When they have guest interviews, Amy Goodman and Co. always ask the meaty questions without any of the overt pandering that turns me off to most broadcast interviews. In short, they’re what news shows oughta be.

Planned Parenthood

They do more than any other organization I know to defend reproductive and sexual rights in the States. They’re doing all they can to fight for women’s right to stay sexually healthy and choose the fate of their own uteruses and I really appreciate it.

National Resources Defense Council

Over the year, I must’ve signed over 30 petitions and letters regarding the XL Pipeline crisis.  I wanted to give to an environmental rights organization and this one was recommended to me.

Global Information Internship Program (GIIP)

I still believe the Internet fundamentally brings out the best in us. GIIP is what turned me on to the idea that the Internet can and should be a powerfully effective space for bringing about social change. During all my four undergraduate years at UC Santa Cruz, I helped run this program which taught college students how to be tech activists, training them in tech skills like web development, database design, and digital storytelling, while turning them into critical readers and writers to help them clarify their mission and goals for project planning and grant writing to raise their own funding for whatever project and cause they were passionate about. I still haven’t heard of any other program like this but I hope others like this get duplicated.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Our fight for a free Internet is only getting started, and since working for EFF I’ve truly come to realize that this war against greedy special interests and unchecked malignant government control needs to be fought at many fronts with all creative means necessary. We defend a free and open Internet in the courts, in the media, in the blogosphere, and on the ground by providing user’s with the tools and knowledge to empower themselves. Is it weird to give to your employer?  Maybe, but that doesn’t prevent me from donating to them.

This American Life

Intimate, informative, priceless stories always told with such simple eloquence. Don’t feel a need to say more.

Brain Pickings

I came across Brain Pickings after reading an article by Maria Popova, its founder and editor. She wrote this awesome piece (one of the many) refuting Malcolm Gladwell’s out-of-touch claim that social media such as Twitter in fact prevents people from enacting social change, rather than being a tool that helps advance social movements. After a bit of Googling I found out she was a fellow TED-addict who runs this blog/website curating various Internet findings including videos, images, articles, and books. I recommend subscribing to their daily emails or following them on Twitter for consistent doses of inspiration and creativity.

Free Press

FreePress defends the collective information space we call the media. They’ve done a lot this year preventing the telecom merger between AT&T and T-Mobile and I’d definitely attribute this huge win to them. They also completely won my heart after attending their inspiring conference in April and meeting so many awesome people defending public media across the country.


= Wikipedia. That’s all I’m gotta say.

Creative Commons

As someone who is convinced that existing copyright laws in fact do more harm than good in promoting innovation and creativity, it only made sense to give back to the single non-profit doing more to take back our human right to share and collaborate ideas. While they’ve been on my radar for a while now, I finally got around to donating to them.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

One of the biggest muscles we got protecting the First Amendment, due process, privacy, and equal protection rights. While they aren’t able to take on every case, I feel safer knowing that they’re out there defending the greater cause for individual rights and liberties…even if it means representing the less-than appealing clients. They’re legal superheroes as far as I’m concerned.

~ fin ~


a patriot

“In a monarchy, the king and his family are the country; in a republic it is the common voice of the people. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak. And it is a solemn and weighty responsibility, and not lightly to be flung aside at the bullying of pulpit, press, government, or the empty catch-phrases of politicians. Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn’t. You cannot shirk this and be a man. To decide it against your convictions is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may. If you alone of all the nation shall decide one way, and that way be the right way according to your convictions of the right, you have done your duty by yourself and by your country — hold up your head! You have nothing to be ashamed of.”  – Mark Twain from Part VI: “Two Fragments from a Suppressed Book Called ‘Glances at History’ or ‘Outlines of History’ “

i am disquiet.

“I write down what I feel in order to lower the fever of feeling.” –Fernando Pessoa as Bernardo Soares

Fernando Pessoa was a writer who worked as a translator in Lisbon, Portugal in the turn of the 20th Century. He was never published. He was never known as a writer during his lifetime. After his death however, a trunk full of his work was found, all disorganized, and authored by the various characters that he had invented. Most of it was published, the most complete anthology of work culminating into a book called The Book of Disquiet. It’s a collection of reflections and short essays he wrote as his alter ego, Bernardo Soares.

Fernando lived and worked on the same street, and passed the same storefronts and characters every single day. He always went to the same coffee shop to work, the same cafe to have his dinner and rarely ventured out from the confines of his simple life. But while he constantly laments about the monotony of his life, he finds endless comfort in his dreams. He wishes that he could move to a far off island and live in a foreign land. Yet constantly reminds himself how much he would miss everything about his life were he to leave and move elsewhere. It’s the mundane, steady rhythm of his days that allow him to appreciate the particulars, the things that would surely be lost in a more adventurous, exciting life.
He writes:

“May I always be blessed with the monotony, the dull sameness of identical days, my indistinguishable todays and yesterdays, so that I may enjoy with an open heart the fly that distracts me, drifting randomly past my eyes, the gust of laughter that wafts volubly up from the street somewhere down below, the sense of vast freedom when the office closes for the night, and the infinite rest of my days off.”
The Book of Disquiet

Even while he claimed this contentedness, you can tell how much he had to fight for it. It’s not easy to be grateful the same things, the same life that you have every day. I believe that he was able to stave off the darkness of bored desolation through writing. And he realizes this himself. He didn’t write to be known, nor did he expect to. He didn’t do it for money or to gain popularity. He wrote because he had no choice. Because the only way to settle down his conflicting inner feelings and insecurities was to let them loose on the page and free them from inside his head. Once they were out, he could calm down, organize them and begin to reconcile all of his inner contradictions.

Fernando, who died in 1935 of alcoholism, has shown me to relax and accept my personal insecurities and fears, and to stop using my circumstances as excuses that are preventing me from doing what I love. He has shown me the value of putting into words my own existential dilemmas so that I may begin resolving them, or at least giving them a legitimate place in my mind. I need to write to quiet the discontented screams inside my head.

I write for these reasons, and I dedicate it all to Fernando. If only I could have communicated to him that he would inspire this person, 100 years after his death, to become a writer like him. I imagine he would be deliriously happy.

Thank you, Fernando.