Digital Awe

There are many ways to experience beauty. Better writers than I have written about that subject extensively, so I won’t pontificate about it here. I’ll just say that I recently visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and I saw people using their phones in a way that’s quite common now that wasn’t possible when I was younger.

Is it worse this way? Is it better? It’s different. Digging deeper may be an interesting project.

Bay Area Poet Calendar

Alexandra

Last night I did a short shoot with Alexandra Naughton, and when the results were posted on Facebook people were kind of excited about it. Some people from the bay area poetry scene started speaking up about wanting to get portraits too, and I said “Hey, why not make a calendar?”  Now I’m aiming to make a calendar of bay area poets by July. I want to do twelve portraits and include short passages, and maybe a few other bits.

So far the following folks are into it:

Justin Etc-January
Andrew Maranzanor-February
Barbara Jean Walsh-March
Kimberly Kim- April
Zarina Zabrisky /Simon Rogghe- May
Cassandra Dallett – June
SB Stokes– July
Jennifer Brown / Joe Clifford- August
Paul Corman-Roberts– September
Alexandra Naughton with Amy Berkowitz October
Charles Kruger– November
Tara Rose- December

 

Keep biking! (and beat internet addiction?)

After my bike tour I spent the first couple of weeks off of my bike, and was slow to get back on. First I was trying to let me hand heal (trying to regain 100% sensation in the fingertips of my left hand!), and then I caught a nasty summer cold. I set up my desktop PC to begin my job search in earnest, since there’s only so much you can do from a cell phone. As I set up my PC and regained full connection to the world wide web, I noticed something was going on: I was spending too much time surfing the internet! This absolutely wasn’t something I had been interested in while I was riding 60 miles per day. I kept up with my blog and checked my email, but not much beyond that.

Just by chance (Or not? I was looking at a lot of websites as I recovered) I came across an article about internet addiction and brain chemistry. I don’t remember the exact article, but if you google for “internet dopamine” then you’ll see that there are a lot of articles on the subject. It boils down to the idea that there are a few psychological things going on that trigger a little hit of dopamine on a very regular basis while you surf the web.

The first mechanism that I find interesting is the way we’re wired to want to know our surroundings, and constantly scan for danger or changes. I think it’s one of the reasons that when we live in the suburbs we like to have wide flat featureless yards of trimmed grass around our homes, and why games like Farmville take off. This is a pointless way to trigger your reward center because the internet is always changing, and by and large those changes you discover are not relevant to your life in any way. You just see something that wasn’t there before, “Someone just posted a picture of a cat!” and you get a tiny hit of dopamine.

The second part that I feel more ambivalent about is the way we are rewarded when we learn something new. It’s satisfying to learn something new, right? Even if it’s some stupid little random factoid that doesn’t apply to our lives, and may not even be adequately supported- it feels good to learn. The internet is also a great source for learning, not just a constantly shifting sea of ‘new things’ to spot. The internet is an incredibly powerful tool for gaining useful knowledge, but it also lets you go and click on the random wikipedia article, and spend half an hour learning about things that have no relation to anything, at a superficial depth, and in such an undisciplined way that you’ll only retain a tiny fraction of that knowledge.

Social media also triggers this small (meaningless?) release of dopamine. Seeing a loved one’s face, or hearing of a friend, or thinking of somebody you have a crush on are all things that give this rush of brain chemicals (great TED talk on that, by the way), so by flipping all over the internet and revisiting facebook/etc, it’s possible to sustain a lot of little hits of dopamine, and something like an addiction develops.

I didn’t set out to write this post about internet addiction, although that’s how it seems to have turned out, I began on the subject because of what I noticed while I was riding 50+ miles per day. I had a constant ‘high’ going, and my level of interest in all things ‘trivial internet’ went down a great deal. I definitely had days where I’d take a break and surf on my phone, but I didn’t feel the same ease of losing an hour to it that I do when I don’t have a baseline level of exercise going on.

During my regular routine before the trip I had about five miles per day of biking, plus some walking. It was enough with a reasonable diet to not feel like a total slob, but I realize now that I wasn’t getting nearly the level of exercise that my body craves. Since the trip I start getting an itch to go for a ride. I guess that developing an addiction to real exercise is a great outcome from all of this. Hopefully it will allow me to remain more focused and relaxed, and maybe get down to a really healthy weight.

That’s all for now, I’m going for a ride!

Totally should… Be a good sport

Who’s this guy?

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That’s Jeff, and he just hustled me out of a few bucks. I’ve been living and working in San Francisco and Oakland for over eight years now- how’d that happen??

Well, I guess it started a few weeks ago as I was getting used to riding down the coast, living life at a slower pace and interacting with people in a different way. On the road you might be alone for hours at a time, except for the occasional car whizzing by, and only run into people outside of cars in small groups. Usually you’ve all been traveling, either on a bike or at least on vacation, and you have some common ground to talk about. Folks say hello, and they really do ask how you’re doing and check to make sure you’re OK, make sure you’re not out of water or anything, and it’s really pretty odd not to make a little small talk. It wasn’t just me, it’s really a thing as you get away from the metropolis.

I was used to taking a little time to chat, and not being rude to people because sometimes those little interactions made a big difference between a free (or cheap and delicious) meal, and wasting time pushing on to the next town to eat dehydrated food in a KOA. It’s amazing how much a little communication can benefit everybody, and how we really don’t connect with anybody in the big city.

I hadn’t really been reminded to put the walls back up yet when Jeff said hello. He was shining shoes, and realized that he couldn’t shine my sneakers. He started to ask me a question about them, and I did what I’ve been doing for the last month- I stopped to talk to a stranger. He launched a well practiced hustle, and before I knew it the dude was washing my sneakers.

So there I was, Jeff’s scrubbing away, an obviously I didn’t agree to a service or a price. Deep down I had known before breaking my stride that nothing good could come of stopping to talk to a guy shining shoes in downtown San Francisco on a Saturday afternoon, and even after he squirted some cleaner on some toes I knew that I wouldn’t have been out of bounds to just walk away. I could have gotten pissed off and argued about what he was doing. I could have been upset and felt like a dummy about falling for such a simple trick. I could have probably threatened to call the cops, or walked over to Occupy SF to see one in person.

Instead, I decided I’d go ahead and pay him. Rather than get bent out of shape over a couple of bucks or somebody being leas than neighborly to me, I considered it a lesson, bought and aid for.

Planning another ride… for BORP!

While I have your attention, I’d like to get a little publicity for something I’m doing this October. Since about 2007 I’ve been volunteering for BORP, the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program. BORP provides sports and recreation opportunities for people with disabilities, and runs programs for wheelchair basketball, power soccer, goalball, adaptive cycling- they have a great website if you want to check out what else they do!

I am the team equipment manager for the three power soccer teams, and the equipment specification committee chairman for the national organization. I helped with the US national team in their journey to win the 2011 FIPFA world cup in Paris, France. Power Soccer is a sport played by athletes who use electric wheelchairs to strike a 13 inch soccer ball with cage-like guards around their feet in the front of the chair. The sport is played on in an indoor basketball court with four players per team.

I am trying to raise at least $750 for BORP as I ride 65 miles in October. The page to donate is here:

http://borp.kintera.org/joecarrow

If you want to ride with me let me know! If you want to help more, you can send my donation page to your friends, corporate philanthropy contacts, or your family. That would be great! Even if you donate you should totally do that!

As an added incentive to donate, I am offering something special this year. If you liked the pictures from my bike tour, then or the rest of my Flickr photo stream, then I will send you a print for your donation! I hope it’s something that will make people more likely to donate (not less!), so here it goes!

  • For a $25 donation I will send you a post card sized print from the bike tour set.
  • For a $50 donation I will send an 8×10 print from any of my Flickr galleries.
  • For a $100 donation I will send three 8×10 print from any of my Flickr galleries.
  • For a $250 donation I will send three 8×10 prints, and one mounted print up to 14″ on a side.
  • For a $750 donation I will send the above, plus a mounted print up to 24″ on a side.
  • For a $5,000 donation, I will fly anywhere in the USA to do a photo shoot, and give you the above prints plus a framed print up to 24×36.

After you make a donation, just email me at joe@totallyshould.com to let me know which picture(s) you want. Prints will go out approximately a week after the ride. If you want to donate but don’t want a print, that’s OK too.

Day 8- starting the Oregon coast

Last night I stayed in a little campground in Cannon Beach, and it cost more than my spot in the Hostel in Astoria. Geez! To give you an idea of what kind of town this was, the pizza place didn’t have any pizzas for less than $22, and this establishment was two doors down:

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A little bit froofy. Anyway, I was able to procure two slices of decent pizza for dinner, and it didn’t break the bank any worse than the silly camp site. The to-go window had this hanging just inside the door- does it make any sense to you?

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I’m really happy that I decided to bed down in Cannon Beach instead of carrying on, despite the relative expense of it. I was really tired and I didn’t notice that I was coming up on one of the tunnels. Scary!

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One of the guidebooks I read said, “This tunnel is dangerous, wait for a lull in traffic, push the button, and pedal like mad!” – it wasn’t actually that bad, but I was glad that I was fresh and rested to tackle it, and we had a lot of light. When I got out the other side the lights were still flashing to indicate bikes in the tunnel, so if anybody else is following along you should know that although it’s uphill and narrow, you’ll at least have the warning lights for a good length of time.

Not far after that was the Oswald West state park, with this amazing view:

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This was one of the highest climbs of the coast, and it wasn’t really so terrible. It was gradual enough that I could just go slow in my lowest gear and pull over for a drink and rest every now and then. Psychologically, that’s helpful because there are about a dozen noteworthy climbs left, and only two that are taller.

I had a friend of a friend offer up a couch in Rockaway Beach for tonight, so although it’s been a short day I’m almost done.

If anyone else out there has a couch, I’d appreciate sleeping on it.

Sample Freegan Cuisine!

I was recently out to brunch, and as I sat with my friend and coffee waiting for food I noticed that a nearby table had paid and left, but did not even touch a plate of delicious berries. I knew that the berries would most likely be dumped unceremoniously in the trash, and so I had to act quickly.

Looking around to see if anybody would notice, I got up and grabbed that plate, and brought it back to our table. My date was mortified at first, in less than five minutes she polished off half the plate.

This happens all the time. People are starving all over the world, and we’re throwing delicious healthy food into the trash. If it doesn’t look sketchy, you totally should help yourself! Just make sure that they’re really done with it.

 

Stop Police Brutality, Stop Protests Turning into Riots

One thing that I’ve been seeing in the news entirely too much lately is how police in the East Bay have been dealing with protesters. They are wearing a lot of riot gear, and are quickly resorting to spraying chemicals and gasses, beating with weapons, and otherwise doing things that send people to the hospital. This isn’t right- no matter where you stand on the issues at the center of the Occupy movement, this is fascism. I wouldn’t want to see this kind of treatment against anyone.

The first example that comes to mind is this:

I don’t know what anybody’s yelling, but they’re just yelling. That’s no excuse for a baton to the guts, is it? I heard she lost her spleen to those blows.

Another recent event was the May 1st General Strike with protests and demonstrations. The police showed up in full riot gear with each officer that I saw hanging a carabiner full of zip-tie handcuffs. Here’s a gallery from that:

SF Gate Coverage of May 1st Protests

Some people (not necessarily protesters) showed up in black hooded sweatshirts with their faces covered, and tried to smash things. I’d like to think that we can get our points across without smashing things, and affect change without violence, just on the power of our words and the presence of our numbers. Wouldn’t that be great? Amazingly, technology has allowed us to do things that sound incredibly utopian, things that don’t really sound plausible. For example, when everybody and their mother shows up at the same place and same time, to collectively show their disapproval. Thanks to SMS messaging it happened in the Philippines in 2001, and with Twitter in many countries in 2010 in the Arab Spring.

An incident that hit a little closer to home happened this past fall. I saw a man loudly harassing an elderly woman on Lakeside in Oakland. By the time I got within 100 feet there were already two men defending her, and at least three other people who didn’t look like they’d be worth much in a fight who had their cell phones out and recording videos. I’m ambivalent about this. On the one hand, their cell phone videos could have been useful for prosecuting the guy later if he got violent without provocation. On the other hand, I didn’t see anybody using their phones to call the police. I have to cynically wonder if they were thinking about helping the old woman, or getting a hundred thousand hits on their youtube accounts. Fortunately the man left. I don’t know if the threat of being recorded caused him to re-think his actions, or if the mere presence of so many vocal bystanders telling him to cool it made him stop. He didn’t seem like a reasonable guy.

Assuming that more people are thinking in their right mind than not, my idea is this- why not have a wearable camera with remote storage, and sends a live feed for a record of what’s going in? The technology exists to make it time stamped, GPS aware, and able to survive having the cellular network shut down or jammed. The non-centralized storage would make it pointless for thugs to steal or break the camera (and if police do this, they become thugs)- the evidence would already be safely stored and unable to be deleted. Adding two or three different cameras that all show the same thing from different angles with identical timing would fill in the gaps in information, and make forgery and tampering very difficult to pull off. Police have cameras on their cruisers, why don’t we have them on our protesters?

Could something like that cause a major change in how we exercise our rights to peaceable protest and assembly, discouraging cops from beating us and from rogue elements from turning a protest into a riot? I hope so.