activists

day 59. a friend you should know, robynbird.

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"If your heart acquires strength, you will be able to remove blemishes from others without thinking evil of them." - mohandas k. gandhi

on the eve of celebrating two months of jostling, i thought it would be nice to turn the spotlight to someone who has enlightened my existence.

robyn byrd is cycling around france raising awareness and money for darfur. her project cycling for darfur started on the first, and there couldn't be a better time to start. from today's nytimes, it appears that the vicious cycle is rolling on.

on her journey, robyn is fundraising for Global Grassroots, a non-profit which works with woman survivors of the darfur genocide who reside in Chad's refugee camps. for 600 kilometers she is asking people to sponsor 1 cent per kilometer (aka $6 USD for the ENTIRE TRIP!!!) through her blog she will detail conversations and people she finds.

if you get a chance, donate your lunch money to a good cause... believe it or not, just a few pennies will change the world!

robyn and i have an interesting connection, last year she contacted me vis-a-vis couchsurfing. out of the blue she crossed the hudson, the east river and into my life... for a few hours we chatted and as quickly as she entered, she disappeared...

that was until we randomly met again this year... on a crowded, rain soaked roof top in manhattan, we caught up, exchanged numbers and proceeded to spend a significant amount of time together.

shortly before my departure, through some simple twist of fate, she invited me to attend an evening with bobby seale, founder of the black panter party, former political prisoner, activist and chef. after listing to bobby cautiously wade through simple questions which could have been answered in one breath - "stop talkin' & get to work"... a featherific thought attached itself to my hat, and for the next week i attempted to read seize the time.

as the seconded ticked down to my departure, i found my self running around nyc staring at unsolvable social dilemmas and cultural creeks no bridge could cross. finding myself more flustered than resolved, i tossed the book in my sack.

just this morning i pulled out seize the time. sitting in cairo, i feel more resolved than flustered. let us all put our shoulder to the wheel and push along. i wish the best to my sister robyn.

cycling for darfur

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day 58. back into the matrix.

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moon

it's been four days since i replaced my macbook with the paper back "skinny legs and all." if you haven't read the book, you're in for an treat. i haven't set it down and am almost done with the adventures of spoon, can o' beans, dirty sock, stick and conch. as my laptop sat in an air conditioned server room of OpenCraft, i could only wonder the stories it told the servers and computer components.

as for my journey, it seems to be physically manifesting my mental discomfort. my stomach woes while gone one day have returned. while there are many things that i could say, i will not bother you with my torment. well...

well i will say there is there is a torment i have yet to detail... the hustle. from time to time people come up to me and say "hello." as a courteous fellow, i don't like ignoring people. hell it's hard enough ignoring pour beggars with no legs, but fully capable humans who can clearly walk and talk is another thing...

when i don my straw hat, down every street i find someone saying "hello", "where you from?", "hey, come here..." it gets to the point where the stern new yorker appears, my eyes glaze, and the desire for a baseball bat emerges.

as for the knot that is developing in my brain... despite the mini-media-hit i got last week from dries' video, i need to spread the word further. i'd like for more people to know about this project. yet, since my time connected to the internet is very limited, i need your help.

it's funny to think about this trip as a ministry, but as the kind egyptian preacher sat next to me on the train to alexandria reminded me... this is a ministry. i've dedicated my life in this mission. open societies is developing to be my spiritual work. i know to most of you this might sound crazy, but i honestly feel this trip was settled in my bones long ago.

why do i say this? well, i've always held faith in the world. i've always held faith that as the human race we can solve our own problems. and like this trip, it's not an easy journey...

for now i'll keep my head down and keep plugging away. if you haven't found a good reason to tell a friend. today is as good as any other...

day 47. arab digital expression camps

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at the suggestion of alaa and manal, they are going to act as my translators at a arab digital expression camp. from what i've just been told, i'm not getting home till 1 am! i'm really looking forward to this little trip!

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day 47. open crafting of ideas

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it's not really your traditional sense of "coworking" but once i mentioned the idea to omar, he passed it along to his boss and thought it would be a great idea... if you haven't heard about coworking, that's alright... most people haven't... it's a variable meme popularized by the independent and freelancer community... after attending a few of Amit and Luke's Jelly NYC sessions, i fell in love with the idea and with the help of beka from Not an Alternative, we crafted a little space...

the community actually defines "Coworking [as] a movement to create cafe-like community/collaboration spaces for developers, writers and independents."

-= back to cairo =-

breakfast with omar after breakfast at the cairo equivalent of denny's, omar and i set out in one of the cities illustrious cabs. winding thought the dusty petroleum clouds, i wondered what was next. when i walked though the doors of OpenCraft, i clearly knew i would no longer need to worry. after meeting abdel karim (aka Mardini), a majority of the business staff and a few members of the tech team - it seems that OC's tech team is just like the US, late risers ;) - i was quietly given their conference room and a cup of turkish café.

to be honest, i'm really blessed to be connected with this community. i guess i should tell you why...

well, my original contact has turned out to be quite unreliable and a bit of a flake... within that void, a part of the cairo technical/political/drupal community... we at least omar, amr, khalid, alaa and manal have done what they can to help me find a place to sleep, locations for food and wifi, beers to drink, a quite location to work... and soon subjects to interview... and for that i'm completely and absolutely appreciative.

not only are they working hard promoting and exploring the world of open source, but they too are in a similar fight to find and protect the few remaining elements of freedom. amid a world of injustice, without a doubt, i know i am in the company of brothers and sisters...

PS - as i write this, i am encoding Dries' interview and see there is a new addition to the family!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

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Episode 12 - Christophe Aguiton, future coworking software and the barcamp/coworking community

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Recoded: 24 July 2007
Locations: Paris, France
Tags: documentary, coworking, barcamp, activist, paris, france, technology, luck of seven
Music: On the Carousel - The Hollies
About: Christophe Aguiton, Orange / France Telecom labs, lays out the plans for future coworking software. he also articulates why coworking and barcamps are so important to the nature of production and the protection of society.

day 39. planning for day 40.

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245195609 5Fe5169Bfe M forty days. yikes! frankly, i'm surprised that i still have my sanity...

speaking of sanity, i called up the indian embassy in ciaro and they told me it take five days to process visas. so, knowing reality to be somewhat a figment of consciousness, i'm not worrying about my visa until i walk though a metal detector and finally sit down with someone.

if you are planning on doing something as insane as this venture. you have two options, one get an ambiguous visa while you are in the states, OR drop into the indian embassy in paris or london. both locations will expedite same day visas (or following day visas) if you are willing to pay twice the price.

despite these headaches, tomorrow i'm venturing into one of the craziest cities in the whole world. tomorrow, i'm heading to jerusalem...

don't misunderstand me. i'm calling the city crazy, not because of all of the religious zealots that flock annually... no, not because of them... i'm venturing to the "holy" city because it's one of the oldest cities in the world and the "old city" is smaller than a square mile.... oh and did i mention the all the small tiny streets?

oh and if that didn't wet your whistle, i'm looking forward to finding a bus to Bethlehem to experience this lovely "security fence." i really don't understand the whole thing... from my conversations with activist, matan kaminer, this issue is deeply rooted in economics.

from my conversations and terse research, the Ashkenazi jews have long oppressed the middle eastern jews and Palestinians (muslim and christian). let's not even get into the armenian and Moroccan side of things... 'cause, that really starts to blow my mind...

nonetheless, with a country that is the cradle to three of the world's largest religions... let alone, a town that is cradle to three of the world's largest religions... it's bound to be crazy. maybe i'm too secular. maybe i've long lost my faith in a specific religion, but one thing has emboldened my perspective from the past few days...

these "holy warriors" would love to have an iphone, ipod, imac, internet, youtube, air conditioning, power, clean water, transportation, education, the opportunity to travel and the ability to move freely. so many of the Israeli's whom i've come across live a comfortable middle class southern californian suburban lifestyle. from shopping mall to shopping mall, from strip mall to strip mall, from gas station to gas station... the modern israeli is no different than the community i was born into nor the midwestern community i grew up in.

hopefully, tomorrow i will get to see a different perspective.

Couchsurfing solicitation for accompaniment in the jerusalem-yerushalayim / israel groups.

(photo discovered on fejron's flickr feed but obviously stolen from somewhere else...)

day 20. sleep the most valuble currency

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words can not describe the thanks i have for the hosts who have blessed me with their homes...

as i discovered on day 18, pushing hard moving from country to country at an early morning hour, not sleeping and eating sporadically doesn't bode well for mental acuteness. actually, it's a recipe for disaster. no really, it was a total disaster.

speaking of disasters, my ipod nano stopped behaving and i was forced to do a factory restore. in many ways, i was looking forward to this moment. now, i am now left with a handful of albums stored on my hard drive and ambient train contemplation.

first, let me say thank you to all of my hosts. if the rest of the trip allows me to cross paths with exceptional characters like these, then i think the world isn't too far off kilter.

in paris and out of the blue, Aurélien Tabard came to my rescue. he gave me keys to his uncle's vacant apartment, and aurélien's hospitality didn't stop there. as he cooked dinner on the first night, we discussed our displeasure of the current political march to the right and the inability for the left to act coheranetly.

though our personal history, we compared notes on activism and our frustration working within the confines of political systems. both of us agreed that the bickering has to stop and activists must diversify their work.

we both recognized the opportunities that lie within technology. if we are unable to capitalize on building a digital world as free as our physical world, we are doomed to confinement. as aurélien introduced me to his phd thesis, we analyzed the opportunities that exist in integrating technology with our day to day actions. we both agreed that our future should not compete with our day to day, but should enhance our day to day.

day 13. on my way to london

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despite the fact i left berlin 45 mins late i was still abel to catch a train that seemed to be on the right time table to brussles. exhausted from sleeping on a hard bench, i geefully boarded what appeared to be my first class train.

little did i know that the wonderfully plush seats, smell of fresh coffee and abundant power outlets would not be my train. in a vain attempt to save 15 euro, i gladly said i would take local trains from klone to brussels... i should have known better. i really should have known better.

after pay 60 euro for a meal i didn't want to regurgitate, an electrical outlet i couldn't part with and a train i couldn't disembark, i tag, flagged and prepared for the next few days in the United Kingdom.

on my last journey, i was heading home from a salzburg seminar and had just paid 250 euro for a stupid belt knife to be confiscated in munich. before that, august of 2002. the US had just invaded Afghanistan, and the world was ripe in solidarity. young and inexperienced, i traveled to from boston to the Isle of Wight for a "little" scooter rally, spent a new days in london and also visited amsterdam.

five years later things are significantly different. now there is no home. now there is no warm bed waiting for me on the other side of the pond. now my world blessed a few days jammed packed with interviews, workshops, meetups and naps.

i'm really looking forward to being back in london to kick out the jams with...
- Joey Baxter, fellow coworking enthusiast.
- Alex Deschamps-Sonsino, fellow Lift 06 attendant and one of the organizers of Hardcore Hardware Hacking Weekend.

- Riccardo Cambiassi London barcamper, techie and fellow Lift 07 attendant.
- Steve Purkiss, Lo7 contributor and techie who's going to take me to Ecademy meetup.

- see the launch of the Mongol Rally and profile team Mr. Dinosaur from williamsburg, nyc and fellow spyten dyuvel regulars.
- and in brighton, profile tactical tech and tech rider, dirk slater.

somewhere with in that mix, i need to edit some video and desperately need to wash three pairs of socks. while in berlin, i was going to purchase flip-flops, but with my extra special train ticket behind me... i think i'll pass... that's unless i find a shoe store that's willing sponsor my feet! ;)

the absurdity of freedom in new york city

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believe it or not, new york city is one of the safest places in the united states.
believe it or not, new york city is one of the most hypocritical places in the united states.
from tripods, transfats, to the freedom of speech, each has lost out to a safer, kinder, and greener new york.

don't believe me? check out this video from this past weekend's critical mass ride. in the video, you will find nyc's street preacher, rev. billy from the church of stop shopping, arrested for reciting the first amendment. why? well, the man who conjured up the ornate rules to freely assemble is in the background and apparently considers the constitution harassment.

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episode 6: renegade craft fair

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Recorded: 17 June 2007
Locations: Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York City
Music: David Byrne - My Fair Lady - http://creativecommons.org/wired
Tags: McCarren Park Pool, Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Handmade Nation Documentary, renegade craft fair, etsy, clothing of the american mind, progressive fashions, my car spotter, knit-head, pretty in punk, alyce benevides, souldier, show your soul, caitlin phillips, rebound designs, indie craft documentary, handmade nation

About:
some where between 90 degrees fahrenheit to 100 kelvin, i stepped out of my house and hopped down the street to see what wears the renegade craft fair had on display. with no money in my pocket, i scoured the vendors looking for the one desirable item i could not part. after about the third hour, i found it! nuzzled away in the far back, sat souldier. after a long discussion, i selected my materials and found a decorative strap for my camera. for the rest of the day, i bounced from booth to booth, in an attempt to fight off a dreary hangover and a the god of hades.

through the heat, i discovered that there is a documentary of the D.I.Y. craft community. while i originally intended this piece to wax poetic about how craft and free culture are intertwined... what i wanted to say has already been said. instead, i'm going to point you to Handmade Nation. (youtube clip, etsy page)

"the renegade craft fair is a unique diy event organized by sue blatt + kathleen habbley. when this event began in 2003, there was nothing else like it. we took up crafts as a hobby after college and decided to try selling our stuff in local fairs. to our surprise, no events were catering to the burgeoning diy craft community or even prohibited crafts all together. so we thought of organizing a fair of our own that tapped into this movement and provided a laid back, fresh venue for artists and shoppers alike." from the renegade craft fair website.

Episode 5 - May First / People Link

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Recorded: 17 May 2007
Locations: Sunset Park, Brooklyn, New York City
Tags: aMay First / People Link, Open Source, Activism, US Social Forum, Organizing, Brooklyn, Unconfrences
Music: "now get busy" - beastie boys - http://creativecommons.org/wired/

About: buried in the heart of sunset park, exists a worker run collective providing technology support to New York City nonprofits, ranging from designing web sites to fixing networks. growing from humble roots in 1995, this grassroots collective's primary work is to pool, improve and enhance the needs of the social justice community.

last month, i had the pleasure to visit with jamie and dan to discuss may first people link and some of the work they are coordinating for the the US Social Forum.

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on the luck of seven was an open-source, around the world project by noel hidalgo, a new york city based activist, organizer, barcamper and coworker.

for seven months, he traversed the globe. using a new media voodo (blog, vlog, wiki, flickr, couchsurfing, twitter, myspace, dopplr, and facebook), noneck harnessed the collective knowledge of the internet, and report on seven topics of freedom. this trip was funded by 253 people and supported, house, fed, and loved by countless others.

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