Category Archives: community service & activism

tumblr: humansofnewyork: “If you could change one thing about adults,…


“If you could change one thing about adults, what would it be?”
“I’d give them more money.”
“More money?”
“Yeah. Some of them don’t even have money to buy food.”

Posted via tumblr: published on February 05, 2014 at 04:45PM

tumblr: For all of our countless innovations in technology, especially…

For all of our countless innovations in technology, especially here in Silicon Valley, we still depend on the charity of others to supply the very blood that flows through our veins and literally delivers life from head to toe, to all the cells in our body. Our bodies are built to be able to donate blood with taking very little away from the donor him/herself and by such a small act as donating blood (and/or blood parts, such as plasma), you can help save others’ lives.

I haven’t been healthy enough in years, but I used to donate blood regularly at the Stanford Blood Center, especially since I’m Type O (universal donor— let’s not even get into what that ironically says about me). They are running a blood drive today until 5 pm in the super-convenient location of White Plaza, so if you are able and allowed (I know— there are still some troubling discriminatory rules on who is allowed to donate), please do.

Posted via tumblr: published on January 10, 2014 at 01:11PM

Update on Online Privacy & Security: College Students

I get a fair number of requests to post infographics here, but this one is particularly relevant to me as it pertains to online privacy and security, like this earlier infographic, but this time, focusing on college students. It illustrates points that are consistent with what I see everyday working in IT at a university every day– that college students are certainly aware and concerned about online privacy and security and while they are taking some steps to protect themselves, not enough are taking those extra little steps, especially when it comes to mobile technologies, leaving many vulnerable to something potentially innocuous like undesired people seeing your “private” social media profile (although we know this can blow up to quite the reputation killer as well) to quite serious, long-lasting troubles like identify theft.

Like most things about working at colleges and universities, in the end, our mission is all about educating and guiding these young adults in this transitional stage to being well-informed, thoughtful, responsible citizens, whether it’s the Internet or simply the world at large. Too bad we can’t go back in time and do that for everyone else that was unleashed on the Internet without any education or guidance 🙂


Conspiracy Theory

Just listen to this crazy idea for a second– there’s a nice and funny Colbert Report interview for you at the end:

Many believe World War II not only helped, but was one of the biggest factors in the US pulling itself out of the Great Depressionsome do not— and I’m sure it’s been joked many times over that another war– in addition to the one we just finished fighting like, 5 minutes ago (did you know military operations had websites?), and the one we’re still fighting in Afghanistan— would help us out of this Great Recession. Well, the thought of someone in government or similar sphere of power seriously considering that idea is a morbid thought, but perhaps this is an even more twisted one: although domestic growth created to support wartime efforts could help us get out of our current, particularly deep economic rut, the thought of waging war for economic benefit– essentially letting the blood of American soldiers be payment for a way out of our current economic state, one created by Wall Street’s high risk, shady deals with subprime mortgages and derivative markets— is too “distasteful”. So, instead, those in power look at alternatives and given the somewhat misguided, but constant ranting about how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its regulations are “job killers”, a conspiracy is born to systematically lower EPA regulations to allow corporations to redirect resources they would normally have spent ensuring they were abiding by various environmental laws and regulations, knowing that it may cause adverse health effects on millions of communities around the country. They decide that considering it takes much longer for you to die from cancer than a soldier to die from a bullet or a bomb, and it is much harder to prove that the chemical waste improperly dumped near your home’s water source is the direct reason why you get a particular type of cancer at a particular point in your life– especially if litigation gets tied up in the court system and you die before its conclusion, should you decide to sue your health insurance company and/or the owner of the factory or plant that caused the pollution in the first place– that slow, causally ambigous death of a few million is not only a more preferable and conveniently politically advantageous, but morally justifiable route for economic growth compared to more American soldiers dying in another war (or ideally, just working harder to come up with better economic policies). Besides, the increased health problems may boost the healthcare industry and once we’re out of the rut, the EPA can create even more jobs by raising– or in some cases, re-raising– regulations, therefore creating a need for corporations to go back out and hire workers and obtain other resources to abide by them.

And then the next time there’s an economic slump, all over again… until they find “the next thing”…

I’m not saying this is what could happen under a President and/or Congress that rails just a little too much against the EPA or that anybody is even seriously considering it, or if anybody seriously believes anybody is seriously considering it, but if I thought of it, someone else must have…

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Indecision 2012 – Job-Killing EPA – Carol Browner
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Mini IdeaFarm™ – August 2010

Mini IdeaFarm™ – August 2010

Originally uploaded by sindy

It’s been a whole year since my last IdeaFarm™ post and I thought I would post an update. I didn’t see the truck around for a while (at least in Mountain View– they apparently have people at locations all over the Bay Area), but then, a few months ago, they popped up again, parked near the intersection of Central Expressway and Rengstorff Avenue. They’ve apparently downsized to this trailer and bike (plus what looks like solar panels?).

This week, the trailer was parked at the corner of El Camino Real and Phyllis Ave after having been “silenced by MVPD” (Mountain View Police Department). I’m not sure what they did since I’ve never actually seen anybody next to/around the truck or trailer, but I suppose just parking for long periods of time in front of businesses and at busy intersections could cause problems. Nevertheless, I haven’t seen anything that would actually be illegal and if they had done something illegal, I assume the truck/trailer/whatever would have disappeared altogether.

So, I’d be curious to know what caused them to be “silenced” and how MVPD silenced them, but I still haven’t figured out what the actual, practical purpose of IdeaFarm™ is, what they do or how they do it. (One commenter summarized it as a version of “libertarian socialism”.) In any case, the IdeaFarm™ website has been updated once again, so maybe you can take a look and try to make some sense of it.

Otherwise– or perhaps as background– you can check out my previous posts:

IdeaFarm™ Returns – August 2009

I meant to post this a while ago, but here it is now: the IdeaFarm™ truck reappeared at the corner of Castro St. and El Camino in Mountain View, CA in late August. It disappeared apparently on September 11 at the conclusion of its Political Economy course. If you can’t read the sign, it reads (I think): “Mexicans colonize because you don’t receive them as brothers.”

Read my previous posts on IdeaFarm™: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

The IdeaFarm™ website has been significantly updated since my previous posts and it looks like there will be a big opening performance.

IdeaFarm™, part 2

I’m always surprised when I find out that people who don’t actually know me read my blog, especially when they go to the trouble of actually writing to me in response to a post. In this case, the man behind IdeaFarm™ sent me feedback on my February 18th post on the project. He gave me permission to use “all or none of this info in [my] blog,” so here goes:

Unfortunately, while you can read my original blog post, sometime between March 9 and now, the IdeaFarm website is no longer up and all you get is an “Under Construction” notice. Luckily for you, here’s a copy of the cached version through Google you can take a look at (I grabbed it as a PDF in case it “disappears”). The Way Back Machine took me as far back as 1997 and through multiple versions of the site over the last decade. In any case, the version I saw when I wrote my post last month was actually closer (maybe even the same) to the cached version from Google, so keep that in mind while reading what follows. (As an aside, the site I saw that matches the cached version from Google is actually a “freebee placeholder” since lack of funds forced the “normal web site” to be shut down. Personally, I think the placeholder site looked less sketchy.)

The email from the man behind IdeaFarm was somewhat rambling, but he did address a few specific issues I had raised:

  1. The “Governing Propietor’s” real name. Privacy, or maybe more appropriately anonymity, is a key part of the organization’s interactions. One way IdeaFarm is organized is through villages– economic associations that work to “create a compelling economic incentive for everyone in the postal code to live unselfishly.” This work is usually done during anonymous weekly dinners and if names must be used, only first names are allowed. I had originally commented that they should make at least one exception for IdeaFarm’s organizer (he refuses to call himself the “leader”), even if it’s just his first name to help lend credibility (or at least make it feel less creepy– imagine having to call someone the “Governing Proprietor” all the time). Surprisingly, the first thing he pointed out in his email to me is that his name is on the website– at the very bottom, he “signs” the website with his legal name: “Wo’O Ideafarm.” (According to this guy, he changed his name in 1999; from 1954 to 1999, it was Jon Clyde Duringer.)
  2. The “accusatory” sign.” He says the photo I used is very old and that the signage was changed several years ago. The phrase “THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM IS THAT YOU HAVE BECOME A SELFISH PEOPLE” is no longer on the sign and what’s left is the word “SELFISH” in a circle with a slash through it. He suggested that I check out his YouTube interview (embedded below) where he talks about the signage and why he changed it, among other things. (Basically, like me, people had a negative reaction to the sign, but some so negatively that they threw eggs and yelled insults and threats. Aside from that, he also realized that if someone is having a hard time, is feeing down and out, seeing that sign might make him unfairly feel worse.)
  3. The Yahoo! email address. I had commented that using a Yahoo! address on his site–— didn’t seem very professional, but he assured me that it is not his private email address, but a “throw away” one (although that was the address he used to email– seems more like temporary, not throw away). This is apparently one of the consequences of having to take down the IDEAFARM.COM server.

Which brings us to the topic of software and servers. Remember that IdeaFarm is a “civil and political project funded by the sale of software products and services.” It seems that, in the last six months to a year, the “real” IDEAFARM.COM server is no longer up and running because a) it is not yet “hacker proof” (one mission guiding development is to “connect people wholesomely” through a “zero spam, zero advertisement, zero thought steering, secure email service”) and b) Wo’O Ideafarm ran out of funds for the normal website. As aforementioned, the website I saw was a simple “freebee placeholder” because he ran out of funds for the “normal website,” which was running IP-DOS. IP-DOS, if you remember, stands for IdeaFarm™ Piggyback-Distributed Operating System, one of the organization’s software products. Unfortunately, it’s a memory hog” (not a good sign) that requires a “full dedicated server,” which costs about $100 per month (versus shared virtual hosting which can be as cheap as $5 to $10 per month or even a virtual dedicated host which is about $45 per month). So, until it can be re-written to be less of a memory hog, the freebee placeholder (or now the “Under Construction” page) will have to suffice. Unfortunately, his resources, programming or otherwise, are scarce:

There is a lot of software work to do, I am doing it alone, and I am doing it under very difficult conditions. (I live in that old truck and do my programming in there and in noisy public libraries. My computer is old, the monitor is failing, its data cable is broken and splinted with paint stirring sticks to keep it working. My second hand keyboard finally became unuseable, so I replaced it with an el-cheapo Walmart keyboard that, even though brand new, is almost as bad; I have to hit the ‘5’ key 5 times or more to get a single ‘5’ keypress.)

Funds are also short because although he is “one of the most experienced software developers alive today,” he currently works part-time as a minimum-wage day laborer (perhaps as part of his rejection of the selfishness that he says has tainted Silicon Valley) and given the tenuous nature of day labor, especially in California, he’s relocated to Las Vegas, NV, where business is also slow, but he’s keeping busy working on IP-DOS, getting the website back up and then getting some temporary work.

About half of the email, as described above, was useful and informative– he did clear up questions about his name and email address, including clarification on the website itself and IP-DOS (although, I’m still not exactly sure what kind of software it really is). The second half of the email though started with a somewhat lengthy and detailed description of his personal living situation, the part I call the “pity party.” By no means do I think the life of a day laborer is easy and I know that everyday, especially in Silicon Valley, that type of work is devalued in favor of information workers and those jobs are constantly disappearing. However, he made a choice to work as a part-time day laborer, living out of that truck– he explains in his YouTube interview that he started working with computers as early as 1974 and experienced the exciting boom in personal computing of the mid-80’s to the early 90’s. Maybe he didn’t mean for it to sound that way or for that purpose, but it sure came off as fishing for pity, going on about his old computer, failing monitor, broken data cable and cheap keyboard with a faulty “5” key.

But, the thing that really bothered me in the end was how he ended his email:

Skepticism regarding legitimacy of anything new is healthy, up to a point. But you people in the United States are immobilized by excessive skepticism. This project is totally “out in the open” and I’ve done everything that I can think of to eliminate any basis for suspicion. The bottom line is that if I can’t get you people to take a serious look at this project, get beyond your skepticism, and get involved, then the project will fail. I cannot do this alone… Your first blog article was one of ten zillion responses voicing skepticism and encouraging people to DO NOTHING. Why not be different? Why not break the pattern? Be bold and tell your readers that maybe, just maybe, this project is legit and that it is an opportunity to DO SOMETHING.

For most of you, your skepticism is comfortable because it provides you with just the excuse you need to continue to DO NOTHING. You like that because you are indeed a selfish people.

Anything that includes use of the phrase “you people” starts to sound like a rant and makes it hard (at least for me) to take it seriously. And after having taken down the old sign because it was “accusatory,” those last comments sound like a well-practiced speech full of accusations. Nevertheless, while my original blog post did voice my skepticism, I consider it more of a critical look at something that was being advertised to me very publicly, very often. Interestingly, I asked many of my friends about the truck/sign and almost all of them said they had seen and wondered about it, but had never looked into it. If anything, I did bother to look into this project, to take a “serious look” at whatever materials were available and in the end, questioned whether this project was “legit.” I voiced my opinion, which I think I’m entitled to after having done what research I could, and while I voiced skepticism, I don’t think I encouraged anybody to “do nothing.” I close my original post with the words: “[S]o if you see this truck around the Bay Area, now you know a little bit more. Judge for yourself!” At the end of the day, I certainly don’t think IdeaFarm is the only remedy for selfishness and I’m not sure what necessary connection there is between skepticism and complacency– or in Wo’O Ideafarm’s words, comfort “because it provides you with just the excuse you need to continue to DO NOTHING.”

I could go on and on about this, but I’ll stop here and say again, “Judge for yourself!” In fact, I think a better argument for IdeaFarm is presented in the YouTube interview (filmed about a year ago), so check it out:


Idea Farm
Originally uploaded by cjanebuy

I see this truck almost everyday, parked in various locations along El Camino as I drive from Palo Alto to Mountain View. (I’ve always wanted to take a picture of it, but have never had the chance to, so, even though I have no idea who you are, thanks cjanebuy for posting a pic onto Flickr.) The combination of the self-lettering, the accusatory nature of the phrase/motto of “THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM IS THAT YOU HAVE BECOME A SELFISH PEOPLE, and the strategy here for marketing their message by parking these trucks all over the area and inviting passersby to “come and eat with us” to find out more has all the trappings of a cult, of some type of weird group of fanatics of something. (Not to mention that all interactions are done “anonymously,” participants using only first names.)

I finally bothered to visit the website–— and while I don’t think it’s a cult like The Family International— but it’s definitely an enigma (they also depict IdeaFarm as “IdeaFarm City,” trademarked, of course, and a federal constitutional protectorate of the US.) It’s very Silicon Valley– the “civil and political project funded by the sale of software products and services,” such as the IdeaFarm ™ Piggyback Distributed Operating System (I, like you probably, have never head of this and have no idea of the pros/cons of this OS).

The mission of the project is to “[P]romote unselfish living by creating a compelling economic incentive to live wholesomely connected to other people, to the Earth, and to one’s Higher Power.” The main way to do this is through a yet-to-be-released “zero spam, zero advertisement, zero thought steering, secure email service.” Participants in this project are divided into two groups– the first, composed of non-members, agrees to a) “sign a public declaration of intent to live unselfishly” and b) participate anonymously in weekly community dinners. If you decide to become an actual member, you move up and become part of the second group who agrees to a) “participate regularly in the weekly community dinners,” b) “loan $8 to the organizer for 64 days, and c) pay 1 cent per day.” In turn, you apparently get “nifty” IdeaFarm software products and services plus richer access to the website.

In any case, reviewing the website and information, a few things to note that might raise red flags for you:

  • For an organization with unselfish living at its core, it is still a “private, for profit entity” and the “owner can dispose of revenue as he sees fit.”
  • The “owner” or “leader” of the organization is never mentioned or known by his name (not even his first name)– he is only referred to as the “Governing Propietor.” While anonymity is central to their interactions, disclosing the leader’s name (at least first name) seems like an acceptable exception, especially to lend credibility to the whole thing since they claim he is a “libertarian student of political economy, a product of the Ph.D. program in economics at the University of Chicago.”
  • A stratified system of participation and membership, largely based on financial contributions– Scientology anyone?* To be fair, they do assert that they are not asking for nor will they accept donations– financial contributions are considered “loans.”
  • Discussion of IdeaFarm and the website will only be done via email.
  • They’re using a yahoo email address. Weak.

Anyway, so if you see this truck around the Bay Area, now you know a little bit more. Judge for yourself!

* PS to the Scientology folks: please don’t sue me.