anarchist_nomad: (One Day More)
( May. 1st, 2009 12:11 am)
I'm being bad right now, writing this entry whilst also participating in an international video conference for the T2K Super-Kamiokande working group. What can I say? We are up to the final talk, on a proposal for a blind analysis... which is not exactly a topic that I care about.

Today has been a really good day. My darling [ profile] cheshcat and I got to sleep in until about half ten, as we were both taking the day off from work. Catching up on sleep was definitely a good thing, as I have not been resting nearly enough of late. The beauteous [ profile] bunnypip arrived at the Flat With No Name around noon, with L1 and L2 in tow. After getting food and whatnot, we made our way into city centre, where we had two o'clock tickets at the Oxford Playhouse.

The performance of the day was a theatrical adaption of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, performed by the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. As it is too long to reasonably collapse into a three hour show, the show was presented as two three hour shows. Part One ran from two until five, after which we had a two hour break for dinner. Part Two ran from seven until ten.

Alterations from the novels still needed to be made to make the show fit. For instance, Mary -- the dark matter researcher -- was completely removed. So was Lee Scoresby's death. Nonetheless, the show worked well. Really well. During the second half of Part Two, I was starting to feel frustrated... but then the ending was done so well that I ultimately ended up forgiving them.

Overall, then, I thought it was a really good show. So did L1, who absolutely loved the books. Additionally, it was most appropriate to see it performed in Oxford, where much of the story is set. Indeed, at the end of Part One, I announced that I had found a window to another world -- if we walked through the theatre doors then, like Will and Lyra, we would also find ourselves in Oxford! The author, Phillip Pullman, lives here as well... and apparently he made a surprise cameo appearance in last night's performance!

After the show, there was a short question and answer session with part of the cast. I asked a question about the puppetry in the show -- which had been excellent -- and started a discussion about that. Needless to say, [ profile] da_pupdetz[*] were quite chuffed by this!

When our day at the theatre finally ended, we zipped back to the Flat With No Name as quickly as possible, as I had my video conference beginning at 11pm. Is still going on. When it ends, I am off to bed immediately, as I need to wake up at half four to go back into city centre to celebrate the May Morning festivities. [ profile] cheshcat, having done it all before, is sleeping in until her regular wake-up time, then going to work as normal. [ profile] bunnypip is joining me, though, as is L1 and L2. The usual singing from the Magdalen tower will happen at six, I am ringing with the OUSCR at half six, the usual contingents of Morris dancers and street bands will be present, and breakfast is at half seven.

Looks like sleep isn't on my agenda for the next day or so. I only expect to get three hours tonight, due to the late-night meeting and the early-morning festivities. Last year, I was asleep again by nine o'clock in morning for a nice nap. Not so likely this year, as I would like to bring L1 to the Oxford Botanic Gardens[**] when they open at nine o'clock tomorrow. Then, at 11:15, I have another meeting to attend, this time from the T2K UK analysis group. Should be done by 12:30, at which point I can squeeze in a little bit of rest before tomorrow evening, when I have a private Beltane ritual and celebration to attend!

Still, sleep or no, this is a four day weekend with many fun things in it... and it is just beginning! Can't really complain about that! (Who need sleep, anyway?)

I hope that all of my fellow Pagans are also having an excellent Beltane weekend... and I wish all of my fellow Anarchists a marvelous Mayday!

[*] Who may well be my daemons.

[**] Largely to flesh out his His Dark Materials experience, as Will & Lyra's bench is located in the Botanic Gardens.

After that cheery title[*], it is time for another entry chock full of randomness! Whee!

Random the First: If any of my friends in the UK could use a car, let me know. Peter I has been sitting in our driveway unused for about two months now, ever since shortly after I purchased Peter II. Peter I is a 1997 Volkswagen Vento (see here for photos). His engine is in very good shape. However, he needs about £300 of suspension work to pass the MOT. A new battery is not strictly necessary, but would not hurt. And at least one new tyre will be needed soon. This is why I chose to buy Peter II -- especially for the bargain price of £300 -- rather than fix up Peter I. However, if anyone could use this car, it is yours for the rock-bottom price of £000.00! It would make me happy if I could help somebody I know out by giving them the car. Otherwise, I will offer it away on FreeCycle.

Random the Second: Ice skating lessons tonight! For the first time since mid-July! The summer break at the rink is over and the new term begins tonight. I will be starting the NISA Level Six course tonight. Here's hoping that I have not forgotten everything I ever learned in the past month and a half!

Random the Third: I have been reading about the atrocities committed by police during the 2008 RNC in St. Paul. I must say that I am absolutely horrified. As bad as things were in 2004 for us in NYC, this sounds like it was even worse -- concussion grenades, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, smoke bombs! Oy! Makes me remember one of the reasons why I left the United States... and makes me all the more reluctant to consider returning, even if it does turn out to be the best career path. One friend -- who is not an activist -- has referred me to somebody who was arrested and held for forty hours last week, so that I can offer advice from my experience. I am happy to help, if I can, but I do feel like I really should have been there. So I make a promise to myself now, to be at the 2012 RNC, wherever it is held. Sad to say, watching the police brutality and fascist repression increase tells me that we failed in 2004... because all our efforts -- during the convention and afterward -- could not stop the same (and worse) from happening again.

Random the Fourth: The St. Giles Fair is on! The fair goes back about two hundred years (although that photograph goes back only about half that). It is held on the first Monday and Tuesday following the first Sunday after September 1st. The usually busy street of St. Giles is closed to traffic and turned into a carnival for two days. I work at the very Northern end of the street, so all I need do is wander outside to see rides and carnival games and food vendors and whatnot. Definitely a change from the usual -- and a very interesting contrast with the ancient buildings that line the street! I plan to take in the fair a bit tomorrow evening (possibly with some company...). I don't really know why they have a fair there every year, but tis nifty. Rumour has it that St. John's College -- the richest of the Oxford colleges -- owns the street and, although they let the city use it for general traffic most of the year, they choose to shut it down for two days as a way of asserting their ownership rights. Is this correct? I don't know...

[*] Title goes with third randomness, icon goes with first, "current music" goes with second. The St. Giles fair is left out and will just have to cope somehow...

As most know, the Republican National Convention has been going on in Minnesota this week. By coincidence, it is being held at virtually the same time that it was in New York City four years ago[*].

As a result, it was virtually inevitable that the convention and its timing would get me thinking about the previous RNC and my involvement in the demonstrations against it. During the part of my activism that involved street protests[**], I participated in quite a few major activist demonstrations. Besides the Republican National Convention, I have taken to the streets to speak out against the likes of the World Economic Forum, the World Bank / International Monetary Fund, and the G8[***].

The RNC was different, though, for one major reason. It was there that I was unjustly arrested and held as a political prisoner for two days. It was there that I experienced "Guantanamo-on-the Hudson", the violation of my habeas corpus "rights", and the inside of the New York City "criminal justice" system.

Overall, I consider the experience to have been a good one. I learned a lot and it made a strong impression on me -- one of the strongest impressions of any experience in my adult life. I learned not only about the workings of political repression -- I also learned about power relationships and I learned about how I respond in such a virtually powerless situation.

Of course, most of the experience was unpleasant: Having my wrists cuffed behind me for three and a half hours, spending two days with virtually no sleep, laying down in the oily chemical muck that coated the floor of "Guantanamo-on-the-Hudson", getting threatened (while cuffed again!) by a "corrections" officer, watching a man that I was cuffed to in a "daisy chain" desperately try to get water before he passed out from dehydration, not being able to brush my teeth for two days (yuck!), and more. Probably the worst part of it all came from within, though. After nearly thirty hours in jail -- with nearly no sleep and very little food -- my own spirits, which I had tried to keep high from the beginning, finally cracked. When I realised that I was going to spend a second night in jail, and it seemed like nearly everybody else had already been released[****], I sunk into a bit of a depression for quite a few hours. Interestingly enough, the worst part came from within, not without. One of the lessons learned: Had I been stronger and more resolved, I could have avoided the worst part of the experience.

Being a political prisoner was not entirely unpleasant -- no thanks to the NYC Police or Corrections Departments! I actually do have many happy memories from my incarceration: Walking down a long corridor of cells upon my arrival at "Guantanamo-on-the-Hudson" whilst being cheered and applauded by hundreds of my fellow demonstrators, singing Wobbly songs in the transport vehicle whilst being moved from Guantanamo to the Tombs, making a checker set out of toilet paper and paper cups to give us something to do in our cell that involved using our brains (winning all my checker games didn't hurt, either!), calming down high tensions amongst my comrades and being told that I was "the biggest mother-f**king optimist" one of them had ever met. Not surprisingly, the best moments were near the end -- I will never forget the moment when a phone call to the People's Law Collective brought the knowledge that the National Lawyers Guild had gotten New York State Supreme Court Justice Cataldo to issue a release for all prisoners held for more than twenty-four hours. The energy change in our cell was quick and palpable! I shot out of my gloomy depression, called to an officer, and demanded to be released from the cell. It did not work, of course... but suddenly I felt a measure of power because I knew that we had to be released, and soon! Similarly, I will always remember my first moment of "freedom" upon leaving the courthouse. Thousands were gathered outside to welcome [a very tired, grungy, and dehydrated] me back with cheers. My friend Matches was in front of it all and jumped into my arms for an enormous hug! Despite my exhaustion, I stayed for several more hours to do jail support and give my emerging comrades the same fabulous reception that I have received.

Definitely a very intense experience[*****]. After five years as an activist, I put that career on hold about two years ago for various reasons. I do expect to return to it someday -- it just does not feel right to let others fight the battle for a better world without me. Right now, though, I do wish that I were in St. Paul and on the streets for the current Republican Convention...

[*] As opposed to the Democratic National Convention, which was held much later this year than it was in the previous election cycle.

[**] Which I consider just one tool in the kit to use in the goal of, as we like to put it, "smashing the State." While I have certainly done my share of street protests, I have also been active in food & clothing re-distribution, boycotts, industrial union organising, political prisoner support, copwatching, books to prisoners programmes, and more.

[***] Sadly, I was in Argentina in 2003 during the demonstrations against the Free Trade Area of the Americans meeting in Miami. To this day, I still harbor a bit of guilt and disappointment that I was not able to stand with my comrades -- particularly the incredible [ profile] resourceress -- as they faced off against the brutal police oppression there. I realise that just about everyone I have ever spoken to about this thinks that I am nuts for wanting to have been amongst the rubber bullets and tear gas... but it feels like a betrayal to have let my comrades face these things without me.

[****] This was an incorrect conclusion, but there were reasons for believing it at the time from the evidence available to me.

[*****] Ironically enough, this is the first time I have discussed my arrest in any detail within this journal, as it is only recently that the legal aftermath of my case -- first the criminal trial and, after being cleared of all charges, the subsequent suit for wrongful arrest -- has been concluded.

On Sunday morning, I learned that Utah Phillips had died. He was a Joe Hill for our time, and the world is that much dimmer for his loss. I had been lucky enough to meet him and see him perform on four different occasions, most recently in Chicago 2005 at the Centenary celebration of our union -- the Industrial Workers of the World.

Fellow Worker, you will be missed!
Right -- this is what incredibly tired feels like. Now I remember.

With [ profile] cheshcat in the States, I have been taking advantage of free evenings[*] to catch up with important people across the pond. On Sunday evening, after returning from Birmingham, I spoke to the Kiddo for a couple of hours... then followed that call up by giving the delightful JCM a ring. Similarly, on Monday evening, after ice skating lessons, I rang up the adorable [ profile] squeektoy42 for a bit. And last night I was up way too late talking to the beguiling [ profile] iamthesphinx.

One result of all this chatty goodness is that I feel re-connected to the lives of several people that I care about from far away. Another result is that I have not had a full night's sleep in nearly a week. On both sides of the Atlantic, legend has it that I do not actually need sleep. Like most legends, this is partially rooted in truth... but is not entirely correct. It finally caught up with me today, and I am quite knackered. Any incoherence in this entry can be justly attributed to that.

As such, the ever-nifty [ profile] gyades has agreed to reschedule this evening's conversation for next week so that I can get to bed early. This is probably a very good idea, as tomorrow is May Day.

As usual, I will be taking May Day off from work. I have not worked on May 1st in six years, out of respect for my Anarchist forebears, the Haymarker Martyrs. To me, it is the most important Anarchist holiday, and I usually celebrate with some sort of activism[**]. Last year, for a change of pace, [ profile] cheshcat and I indulged in the traditional Oxford May Morning activities -- starting with the all-night bonfire at Port Meadow, continuing on to the Magdalen College choir at dawn, and the Morris dancers and street performers after. Twas a very good time, indeed! We finished with a yummy breakfast at Frevd's -- and I was way too tired to remember now what I ate -- then she went to work and I went to sleep.

This year, I have decided to mix and match a bit of everything. It is good that I am going to call it an early night and retire soon after bell ringing this evening... as here is what I have in store for tomorrow:

Dawn: Listen to the Magdalen College choir sing from their tower overlooking the Magdalen bridge.

6:30am: Ring in the May with the Oxford University Society of Change Ringers at the University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. I have never rung at this tower, so I am rather excited about this.

7:30am Lardy breakfast[***] at Keble College with the OUSCR.

Noon: May Day march and demonstration. I don't know if there will be an Anarchist contingent (besides me), but this is our holiday and I intend to be out there on the streets!

2:30pm Premiere showing of the Iron Man movie in Oxford! I already have my ticket and am -- perhaps naively -- psyched up for it!

5:00pm Take a walk, just to keep in practice. Only three or four miles.

6:30pm Handbell ringing at St. Giles, followed by tower bell practice.

11:30pm Beltane phone date with the enchanting [ profile] frogcastle.

Looks to be a very fun day tomorrow, combining the best of several worlds. I'd best be off now to ring and then sleep, as I would prefer to be rested when the alarm sounds at 4:30am tomorrow...

[*] Well, free after about 10pm, anyway... which is when I usually get home.

[**] Sitting on a shelf at the Event Horizon, I still have the video tape of the nightly news showing a cop assaulting me during the Tempe May Day march of 2003. Whee!

[***] Vegetarian lard in my case.

Earlier this week, I went to the post office to pick up a letter. Said letter was sent from my lawyers... and with it was enclosed a check from the City of New York. This settlement check now ends the legal aftermath of my time as a political prisoner.

It has been nearly four years since the whole affair began in late August 2004. This coming Friday will be three years since the criminal charges against me were found to be baseless, at which point my suit for wrongful arrest and imprisonment began in earnest.

I am pleased with this result... mostly. I do count it as a victory, but it is tricky to measure the degree. Getting any damages from NYC can be counted as a success -- the city certainly tried its hardest to avoid paying a single penny, beginning from the offers of ACD[*], continuing through a belligerent deposition, and ending with a long delay in payment even after the settlement was agreed upon! The size of the check is not small, either -- indeed, it is larger than my annual gross salary during my first year of graduate school!

Of course, this whole business has never been about money. It was about the blatant oppression dealt out by the City of New York and about the police state that it created. It was about fighting for freedom of speech and freedom of expression. As such, receiving a payment is only a tool to prevent NYC from acting thusly again... and from preventing other cities from copying those tactics of indiscriminate mass arrest. More than once, I have heard somebody congratulate me by saying that this is not a bad payment for a couple of days. They are missing the point entirely. My "freedom" -- such that it is -- is not for sale.

In that sense, it is hard to know how much of a victory this is. Certainly a bigger check makes for a bigger win, and the final settlement amount is more than double their first offer. When the second settlement offer was made, I was originally inclined to turn it down. Anything that they offered was not good enough -- I wanted to fight it out in court and squeeze more out of them. I wanted to squeeze out enough to make them feel it, and have that prevent them from doing this again. However, for a city the size of New York -- with an annual budget of $50,000,000,000 -- no amount of payment is really going to inflict financial woe.

Eventually, discussions with my lawyer convinced me to take the settlement. I do trust my lawyers; they work with the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union. One of them is even a fellow graduate of Hampshire College. They pointed out the math that I had already done (see previous paragraph), and also noted that the courts are part of the same governmental system that I was fighting -- in essence, the deck was stacked against us. In their view, the path to victory was in taking as much as we could get -- in this case, the final settlement offer -- and hoping that the media and public opinion would arose outrage at how many tax dollars had to be spent to settle this sordid affair. The earlier arguments, about the math and about how the courts are part of the system, is what convinced me. The later bits, about the media and the public, seem far sketchier to me.

This is a victory, and I am proud of it. It took a lot to get to this point, and it would have been easy to let it all lapse long ago. But those bastards locked me up -- in pretty heinous conditions at their little "Guantanamo on the Hudson" -- and violated my rights every which way[**]. After what I went through, it feels damn good to have not only been cleared of all charges... but to be compensated for having to endure all that! So, yes, there is personal satisfaction in this settlement for sure. In the long run, though, what will really matter is what happens next... and whether the actions of me and the others who went through the same will make a positive impact on that.

[*] "ACD" = "Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal" This can be offered to you upon your release from jail or at any time after until your trial is concluded. In essence, if you accept it means that the you do not have to return for hearings and a trial. You are not innocent, you are not guilty. If you do not get arrested again for six months, your case simply vanishes. In return for this "kindness", you agree not to sue. I was offered ACD when released from jail and four times after -- including the very morning of my trial.

[**] To be clear, I do not actually believe in the notion of rights as anything more than a convenient fiction. For a government to say that you have a "right" to something, it is basically making a promise not to impede your ability to that thing. Except that I don't trust the promise of governments one iota -- and history bears me out on this. I believe, plain in simple, in abilities. I either have the ability to do something or I do not.

anarchist_nomad: (Mailbox Madness!)
( Apr. 15th, 2008 12:32 am)
Today is now April 15th 2008. This is the day that the Royal Mint begins to ship sets of the new coins of the pound sterling. With a little luck, I will soon have a set on its way to me!

Speaking of the new coins, the delightful [ profile] ms_katonic has brought to my attention a BBC opinion piece about the new coinage. As with most reviews of the new design -- which splits the Royal Shield of Arms between six coins -- this one has an overall negative perspective. However, it is a review worth noting because of one particular line:
Fitting round coins together so that they form the appropriate square picture sounds like a task for a particle physicist, but it could be intriguing to try.
Need I say more?

Another friend, who is a professional numismatist[**], had this to say about the new coinage. )

Personally, I have come to the conclusion that I like the new designs and I think that the idea of a six part image is innovative and cool. I will definitely be purchasing an uncirculated set. However, I like the old designs, too, and believe that they are more appropriate for general use. I think it would have been better if the new designs were part of a commemorative set, possibly only minted for one year, rather than the standard currency of the UK for the foreseeable future.

Is it wrong of me to hope that the Queen croaks within the next year? It would mean a new set of coins for 2009 -- same reverse designs but a new monarch's head on the obverse -- which would make the coins that are about to be released a one year edition, which would be quite special.

Also in the news, but having nothing whatsoever to do with coins of this or any other realm, are two New York Times articles that caught my attention today. The first, entitled Union Killings Peril Trade Pact With Colombia, talked openly about the ongoing murder of union leaders, which has been taking place for many years. Back in December 2003, I heard a Colombian unionist speak in Chicago about the atrocities that take place there. I thought it was good to see an article like this in the mainstream press... however, I also found it striking that the NY Times managed to completely avoid mentioning by name any corporation that backs these killings in order to profit from union busting. A small company that you may have heard of, named Coca Cola, is one such corporation. Methinks ye olde New York Times is afraid to anger its advertising base.

On a much less disturbing note, the NY Times also had a travel article about the pubs of Oxford. Although I am a lifelong teetotaller, it was fun to read and think: "Yup, I've been in that one. Been there, too. Have not been inside that one, but have walked past it many times..." Ah, I do so love living in Oxford!

[*] At the party on Saturday, [ profile] artremis introduced me to my new nickname: Astro-Muppet!

[**] I speak of AB, husband of [ profile] rbdarkly, for those who know them.

Eighty-nine years ago today, Zapata was murdered in an ambush. Long live the Zapatistas!

Note to self: Must arrange for a trip to Chiapas in the not-too-distant future...

anarchist_nomad: (Road trip!)
( Mar. 28th, 2008 02:38 am)
Just got back from Birmingham[*], where [ profile] cheshcat and I helped the lovely [ profile] redandfiery celebrate her birthday. It was good fun, and nice to see [ profile] sanjibabes and [ profile] thehalibutkid again, too! Thanks to all of you for a fun time!

It does seem that I am completely unable to go to sleep before two o'clock in the morning lately. We did not return to Oxford until nearly two o'clock tonight. Last night, I was in the lab until five o'clock in the morning, cooling down the K-400 cryostat. Tuesday night, I was in the lab until one thirty in the morning... then came home to read, which kept me from sleep until about three o'clock. This is what a long holiday weekend does to me, I guess.

On the drive to Birmingham, I popped the David Rovics[**] CD Hang a Flag In The Window into the player. I have not listened to his stuff for awhile; doing so reminded me that I really need to get back into activism. It is hard to believe how absent it has been from my life for the past year or two, especially considering how much time I devoted to it for the five years previous to that.

During the drive back from Birmingham, [ profile] cheshcat and I opted to forgo the CD player; instead, we sang songs together from the early days of our relationship. It just happened -- we did not plan it -- but it was a nice way to reconnect... and there is an interesting feeling that comes with remembering so many years (and several lifetimes) ago with the person who I have shared them with. There was also one moment where Chesh's puppets made a snide comment so funny that I nearly drove us off the road, blind with laughter. Ooops.

Right. Time for bed. I realise that I have been negligent about updating this week. There has been a fair bit going on: A nine mile walk, gaming, video gaming, an evening with [ profile] wolfpeach, ice skating, and more cryogenic adventures. I will try to write about them soon... but for now I need sleep. (Especially since I need to be back in the lab in seven hours)

[*] No, not Alabama.

[**] It has occurred to me that Jonathan Coulton looks and sounds a bit like David Rovics, although the subject matter of their songs is entirely different -- geeky humor for one and radical left-wing politics for the other. In fact, Coulton now strikes me as what one would get if one cross-bred Rovics and They Might Be Giants.

anarchist_nomad: (At the Haymarket)
( Mar. 19th, 2008 09:28 pm)
Five years ago today, I was shocked -- but not particularly awed -- by the savage and unprovoked war that "my" nation began. One year ago today, I wrote an essay explaining my current feelings on the Iraq War. I do not believe that I can express my current sentiment on this abomination any better than the words that I crafted last year.

In other news, I brought Foxy back to the vet today, just to be weighed. In the twelve days since she was last put on the scale, she has lost about another half pound. Our poor lovely Fox is now down to a slight little 4.88 pounds. We have been taking many pictures of her and spending much time cuddling her, so that we can make the most of the few weeks that we have left. Last night, as we were snuggling on the couch, Her Foxness was sprawled out, relaxed and purring. It is good to see her still happy. For now, I think her biggest suffering still comes when we give her medicine or take her to the vet. As I was admiring our little girl last night, The Boy bounded on top of me, seeking attention in his affable "I know of no such thing as boundaries" way. He is only five and a half years old, and still full of energy and personality. Petting both Foxy and him, I thought about how sad I will be someday -- hopefully many years from now -- when it is his turn to pass. Thinking about this, I realised that I almost do not want any more kitties... because their lives are so short compared to ours and it is so hard to lose them. I did say "almost"; we will still be getting a new kitten shortly after Foxy passes over to the Summerlands. I cannot imagine living without our furry children, but it can be so very hard sometimes.

In somewhat better news, we finished our collaboration meeting today, and I am now having one of those long evenings in the lab where the cryostat and I get in some quality time together. This is actually the first cooldown in over a month and a half, as I was making upgrades and revisions to the wiring and electronics in recent weeks. Time to see if they work! So far, everything except for one thermometer is functioning perfectly. However, we are still no colder than 1.80K -- already cooler than the Universe itself, but still a long ways from the goal of 5mK. With any luck, the fridge will behave and the prototype detectors inside will experience nice transitions when we get cold...

Also in good news -- though, I will admit, somewhat trivial -- I finally found my first 50p coin from 2007 this week. I would not have thought that it would take so long, but there we are. My set of 2007 UK coins in now complete. And, yes, I know that this makes me a dork. Deal with it.
The very last primary -- actually a caucus -- to be held for the Democratic Party will be in Puerto Rico, on June 7th. Sixty-three delegates, approximately 1.5% of the total, will be at stake.

I have found myself wishing that the Obama/Clinton race stays so very close that neither candidate still enjoys a majority at that point. This may even be possible, with Edwards siphoning off a small -- but significant -- portion of the delegates. How cool would it be to watch those two flying down to Puerto Rico, fighting it out to the end? Pass the popcorn. And how cool would it be to have, for once, the deciding power fall not in the hands of the earliest states or the biggest states... but to Puerto Rico -- not even a state!

Okay, I may have a warped definition of cool, as [ profile] friend_of_tofu has recently pointed out. But then y'all knew that about me anyway.

And, please, no lectures from my more liberal friends about how this is not a spectator sport and how there are important issues at stake here. Of course this is a spectator sport! As for the importance of elections... well, I am an Anarchist -- says so right in the name -- and don't put a lot of stock in their ability to change things. As Lucy Parsons said: Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth or, as Utah Phillips says of himself and Ammon Hennessy:
Ammon taught me, as he did, to treat his body like a ballot. My body is my ballot. And he said, "Cast that body ballot on behalf of the people around you every day of your life, every day. And don't let anybody ever tell you you haven't voted." You just didn't assign responsibility to other people to do things. You accept responsibility and see to it that something gets done. That's the way he lived and that's the way the past forty, going on fifty, years that I have lived. It's a way to vote without caving in to the civil authority I'm committed to dissolving.
I will vote for President in November -- almost certainly for the Green Party candidate -- but I have no illusions about what it the process will accomplish. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy the show and go get myself some more popcorn.
Okay, I'm back. I know, I know -- I wasn't even gone long enough for anyone to notice... but gone I was, nonetheless. I was off brooding. No that's not quite right. I was wrestling with my newfound revelations about how badly the United Kingdom sucks. I was struggling to assimilate all the things that I hate about this country, and somehow reconcile them with the fact that I love being here so much. Significant developments from the Western side of the Atlantic during this process include the Supreme Court's decision to turn Brown v. the Board of Education on its head and the selfsame court's decision to reintroduce price fixing. Simultaneous developments on the Eastern side of the Atlantic include a minor incident at the Glasgow airport leading to further encroachment of the police state and a plethora of mindless patriotic quotes from our new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. Sounds a lot like the things that I'd heard far too much of in the United States and all falls under the basic theme of: "They attack us because they hate us for our freedom... so we shall stop the attacks by taking that freedom away." At the end of the day, which it most certainly is, I stand by the conclusion that the political situation in the US sucks more than it does in the UK... but it still sucks over here much more than enough.

The real reason that I stopped posting for awhile is that anything I could possibly write about from my life sounded exceedingly trivial and superficial compared to the terrible things of real importance that are going on. That is still true... but unless I want to pack this journal up completely, I guess I am going to have to go back to writing about the superficial trivia that is my life. Here is a summary of things that have been happening:

Games )

Bells )

Other )

Trivial? Yes, I know. But, for now, it's my life so I may as well chronicle it. Meanwhile, just for fun, here are a couple more pictures from Solstice at Stonehenge. ) And, if you have not yet seen it, go check out Riz MC's video for the Post 9/11 Blues. Just because.
anarchist_nomad: (Supernova 1987a)
( Jun. 27th, 2007 09:53 pm)
After work today, [ profile] cheshcat and I met at G&D's for ice cream. As we were leaving, we looked at a copy of the Daily Info that was hanging on the events board in the front of the cafe. She noticed that a movie which we had been wanting to see was playing at the Phoenix Picture House, in Jericho, at 6:45pm. I looked at my watch -- 6:30pm. Should be able to walk there in time -- I do so love living in a city where such spontaneous decisions are possible, and all without the need for a car.

We strolled up Walton Street and made it to the cinema with several minutes to spare. It is pure coincidence that we saw this movie today, on the day that Tony Blair leaves office and is replaced by Gordon Brown. The movie -- Taking Liberties -- is about the erosion of civil liberties during the past ten years, under the Blair government.

I highly recommend it to anyone who lives in the UK. In fact, I highly recommend it to anyone -- period. The blinders have come off... big time. Moving here, I knew that it would be no paradise but I believed that the government would be better than that in the United States. I still believe that the government here is better than that in the United States... but I now have a much clearer view of just how exceedingly tiny that margin of "better" really is. I suppose that I am not as cynical as I thought if I can still be surprised and shocked by the atrocities committed by the UK government. And I suppose I am still more naive than I would like to think if I can still be startled when a hierarchical system inevitably slides into tyranny.

There is so very much more I could say, but perhaps those words are best left unsaid. At least for now. Go find a copy of the movie and watch it. That is all.
What have I been doing since the May morning festivities? Good question!

Bells: After six hours of sleep during the day, I went down to Mary Mag on Tuesday evening to ring bells with OUSCR. The following day, I went back with several other learners to get a bell ringing lesson which consisted largely of ringing rounds a lot. Then, on Thursday, I practiced at St. Giles with that group. I think that this makes the first time that I have rung bells three days in a row. Besides ringing a covering tenor on Plain Hunt Triples (something I have gotten quite good at by now), I was once again asked to cover on the #6 bell for Plain Bob Doubles. Just like the first time I was asked to do this, I really had no idea what I was doing and needed vocal coaching to stay in place. However, I have been looking at the method diagram for Plain Bob Doubles... and I now believe that I can ring the covering bell just fine for the plain course. In fact, I specifically asked DR if we could try it again this coming Thursday.

Games: Besides ringing bells three days in a row, I also gamed three days running. After the practice on St. Giles ended on Thursday, I joined in the weekly gathering of the university board game club. Had time to play one game of Puerto Rico, which I won with fifty-eight points. [ profile] cheshcat came in a close second with fifty-five, but third and fourth place was far behind (45 and 40 points, respectively). Friday evening, we met [ profile] wolfpeach at the Slug & Lettuce. After schmoozing for a bit with our new friend, we taught him how to play Settlers of Catan. [ profile] cheshcat won that won, though it was close! Tonight, we had our weekly evening with C&M. I learned how to play San Juan and -- unlike my usual experience at a new game -- I did not win. C won with 36 points, [ profile] cheshcat had 34, I came in third with 32, and M had 24. Then we played Ticket To Ride, which C also won. Finally, we played Settlers and I scored an amazing win -- if I do say so myself. I was boxed in early and only ever had four points on the board. However, I bought many development cards and won by getting longest road, largest army, and two victory point cards.

On Sleep (or lack thereof): This has not been a week for getting adequate sleep. It started by staying up all night on Monday for the May festivities. I did sleep well on Tuesday, but not enough to recover. So I simply needed to get to bed at an early hour on Wednesday and all would be fine. Except that, just as I was getting ready to pack it on around 1:30am, I noticed somebody was on-line who I very much wanted to chat with. So, one lovely conversation and about three hours later, it was five o'clock in the morning. She went to get dinner and I fell into bed to claim my four hours of sleep. So much for catching up on rest! It's okay, though... it was worth it! Staying out gaming until after midnight on Thursday didn't help the sleep factor any, either.

On Spider-Man: Before meeting [ profile] wolfpeach on Friday, [ profile] cheshcat and I went to go see Spider-Man 3. It has been a long time since I lined up to see a movie on the opening day. I am just not much of a movie person... but I am a big Spider-Man fan. As for the movie, I liked it. A lot! And I suspect that not many other people will. This reminds me of 1992, when Batman Returns came out. I thought that the intricate plot was well crafted and intriguing. Most other people disagreed. No matter -- as far as I am concerned, this is the first time ever that a super-hero franchise has produced three good movies. Can't wait to see what they do with number four!

On Activism: I have been an Anarchist for a very long time. However, I have not always been an activist. I must say that, for the past twelve months, I have been only very marginally engaged in any social activism. There are a number of reasons for that, but today I put my foot back into the pool. I joined a local demonstration given by a group called SPEAK, which opposes an animal testing lab that is being build at the University. I have demonstrated with SPEAK once before, in April 2006. Their campaign in Cambridge prevented the lab there from reaching completion. Here in Oxford, their efforts have delayed the project by two years and cost the University tens of millions of pounds. It was good to be back in the street and working for a better world. I am always an Anarchist, based on my world view and the way that I approach my interactions with people. Being an activist is not essential to being an Anarchist. That said, it was good to get back into the fight...

Other: On Thursday night, I started doing a very good deed. Tonight I finished it. I am very happy to see this particular deed succeed...
anarchist_nomad: (At the Haymarket)
( May. 2nd, 2007 09:25 pm)
Sitting here in the office, working out a design for a box to hold the circuit board that I designed last week. The MP3 player is plugged into the computer speakers and was set on shuffle play.

Out of several thousand songs, the Sound Designer decided to play something from Chumbawamba's album Never Mind The Ballots. On the eve of the local UK elections. I think the Sound Designer is trying to tell me something. For those who don't know, this is a concept album.. and the concept can be concisely summed up by two quotes:

The first quote is from Lucy Parsons: Never be deceived that the rich will permit you to vote away their wealth.

The second quote is from the album itself: On the left: capitalism that's right. On the right: capitalism is it. In the middle, probably the best capitalism in the world! Remember it's your choice, your five seconds worth of action that counts..."

So much for shuffle play; now I am listening to the whole album!
anarchist_nomad: (At the Haymarket)
( Apr. 26th, 2007 01:30 am)
Just got home. At 1:30am. With my talk complete. I leave on the 9:16 train to Sussex tomorrow morning. Should be just enough time for five or six hours of sleep, packing, shaving, and showering. I suppose that I should be proud of myself for finishing early enough to get so much sleep... rather than my standard two and a half hours sleep between finishing a talk and presenting it. Indeed, I don't even have to present until Friday, giving me time to get a better rest before then. However, I just find myself wondering why I can never seem to finish a presentation without working well into the night.

Took a break from the preparations this evening to have my private bell ringing lesson at Mary Mag. It went very well, and I hope that she will give me another couple of lessons during the term. We are re-training my instincts to lose some of my bad ringing habits and replace them with proper ones. Right now, I can do things well when I think about them, but when I need to think on something else, I tend to lapse. I'll get there, though...

After ringing, I came home to have dinner with [ profile] cheshcat before returning to the University. Over dinner, she told me that she heard back regarding the court case of two weeks ago. Those of you who read my blog may recall how she intervened in a public case of domestic violence. Those of you who read her blog already know about our actual experience when we went to court to serve as a witness. The basic story is that the bloke didn't turn up, the magistrates held court anyway, and he was found guilty based on the testimony of two eyewitnesses ([ profile] cheshcat) who had seen him punching his girlfriend in the face. Given his prior history of convictions and skipping court dates, the magistrates recommended jail time. Anyway, today's news is that he had been caught and sentences to four months in prison.

I am having an extremely conflicted response to this. [ profile] cheshcat is clearly happy about the outcome. She believes that this guy may very well end up killing his girlfriend if they are not separated. I am proud of [ profile] cheshcat for acting when no one else would, and for having the courage and determination to follow it up. My pride for doing what she feels was right is undiluted. However, I do not know what was right. As an Anarchist, I have worked with prison book programs and on prison abolition projects. I do not approve of the State prison system, for reasons that could fill many pages. I know more than my share of people who have been in prison, and unjustly so. And, while I have never been in prison, I have been in jail... so I have a taste of what the system is like. Thus, part of me feels bad -- very bad -- about this outcome, delivering somebody new into the hands of the prison-industrial complex. Yet this is a person who had no compunctions about repeatedly punching his girlfriend in the face in a public venue, causing her nose to bleed profusely. Not exactly a decent piece of work.

Gah! Definite conflict of moral issues here. I didn't see any of it and thus played no direct role. The most that I did was to give moral support to [ profile] cheshcat. But it is still grabbing my thoughts, because I want to know a better way that this could have been handled. So, as I did back in December when it began, I throw open the question to all -- but particularly to my fellow Anarchists -- what better way could this have been handled? How could this guy have been kept from harming his girlfriend without invoking State violence against him? If I find myself in the situation that [ profile] cheshcat was in, what could I do differently???

UPDATE (2:20am) -- Still can't sleep. Too wound up. Partly from the upcoming interview, I'm sure, but my thoughts are stuck on this moral quandry. My beloved was instrumental in sending a girlfriend-beater to prison. Without her call and without her willingness to testify, he would have gone free. She acted selflessly when no one else would. She made an effort to follow it up. And she believes -- perhaps correctly so -- that she may have saved a woman's life. She is proud of herself for that, and I am proud of her. Yet I am an Anarchist and I am a pacifist. Sending this guy to prison is countering violence with more violence. State sponsored violence which, ultimately, is more pervasive. A quote from one of my heroes, Eugene Debs, comes to mind:
Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.

So what else could be done? I suppose, in her shoes, I could have beaten the guy to a pulp myself. That avoids the State response but it is troublesome for several reasons: (a) Not everyone is physically capable of doing this, (b) the State response would then be directed against me, (c) it is still using violence, which is incompatible with my stance as a pacifist.

Now I understand that one answer would be that, after the Revolution, the sources of such behaviour will be rooted out of society with the abolition of hierarchy. And that might be true. Yet it doesn't go anywhere as an answer to how one can properly respond to such situations in the here and now, while the Revolution is still in our future.

Dammit. I'm supposed to be smart... but I'm getting absolutely nowhere on this one.

UPDATE (2:40am) -- Definitely sleep deprived. It's mixing with the semi-obsession to find a satisfactorily moral answer to this question and leading to fantastic thoughts. Like wanting to be Batman. Batman would know how to deal with this. He'd dangle the guy off the roof by one foot and threaten to drop him. Except there are still two problems: (1) I really don't want to be Batman, given all he's been through. Maybe Iron Man, but certainly not Batman. (2) Even if I were able to be Batman, I wouldn't be able to resolve all the violence with being a pacifist. Amazing how there are precious few pacifists in the world of comic book super heroes. Only one I can think of offhand ended up as a mass murderer responsible for killing four million people -- half the population of New York City. I need to re-read The Watchmen -- it's been over six years. Meanwhile, though, all this is a distraction to a very real problem that is troubling me. Anyone have any answers to suggest? I'll go try to sleep now... please give me something useful before I wake.

This is one of those times where I wish for the powers of Jamie Madrox. Mayday / Beltane is coming, a holiday that holds relevance for me as both a Pagan and an Anarchist.

Last year, I participated in the Anarchist Conference and march in London. This year, I am torn. Do I go back to London or do I stay here in Oxford?
...however, it is most definitely not raining right now![*]

I just ate lunch outside for the first time this year, because the weather is so amazing! The temperature is a beautiful 55o, the sun is shining brightly, and the sky is mostly blue... with thin wispy white clouds floating by. Pretty! Also, the 100 km/hour gales of wind that characterized yesterday are now a thing of the past -- no need to worry about being blown away or having a tree fall on me. So I took my sandwich to one of the benches in the cemetery outside of St. Giles church to eat as I admired the local architecture and watched the cars go by in the centre of town.

That's all for now.

[*] It is, in fact, not raining outside in very much the same way that so-called "anarcho"-capitalists are not Anarchists.

anarchist_nomad: (Sunset over Key West)
( Dec. 5th, 2006 05:32 pm)
  • Thanks to those who replied to my scheduling query in yesterday's entry! I am putting the pieces of the scheduling puzzle together and will respond to those comments when I have something more definite to propose...

  • Many thanks to those who gave their opinion on my questions regarding the situation that [ profile] cheshcat encountered in the Covered Market last weekend. There seems to be a consensus, amongst both Anarchists and archists, that [ profile] cheshcat responded in pretty much the best way possible. For those who have not seen, [ profile] cheshcat wrote her own account of what happened, much more complete than my summary, with commentary here. Despite her usual attempt to dodge praise, I have to say how proud I am of her for acting when nobody else present would do so.

New: Nothing big going on... just a lot of little things to report on today
  • Ever write a letter to somebody with no intention of actually sending it to them? I did that last night, putting together a five page letter that had been brewing in my head for several days. It felt good to get the thoughts out of my head and onto paper, even if the person they are directed to is not likely to ever see them. Ironically, it only took me a couple of days of thinking before writing this letter, compared to two letters that I recently sent... each of which percolated in my head for about twelve months.

  • Is it odd that I think baby stalagmites are cute? There certainly are plenty of them here in Gran Sasso! I have never before worked in an underground lab that had so much seepage from the ceiling! Is it wrong of me to deliberately step on them as I walk by?

Aw, heck. In order to make life more interesting, I will write the rest of the news in haiku form. Just because.

  • [ profile] gyades is here!
    Welcome to the Dark Side, dude
    Where's the flying pigs?

  • Very subtle joke
    "Gran Sasso" name means "big rock"
    Go re-read this post

  • "Walking in my shoes"
    Depeche Mode is now earworm
    Good lord, what comes next?

  • [ profile] angryjim posted!
    The hermit has re-appeared
    Welcome back, dear friend

  • Beneath the mountain
    Science cauldrons all bubbling
    Is it cold in here?

And that is the wealth of excitement from this neck of the woods for today...
anarchist_nomad: (At the Haymarket)
( Dec. 3rd, 2006 01:03 am)
Just got off the phone with [ profile] cheshcat. Back in Oxford, she was doing some Yule shopping this afternoon (Saturday) in the Covered Market. According to her, there was a large crowd of people there today. And there was also a large guy beating his girlfriend.

Listening to her tell this story, I couldn't help but recall the murder of Kitty Genovese. [ profile] cheshcat said that, despite this beating happening in a very public venue, nobody did anything about it. [ profile] cheshcat herself wanted to go up to this guy and stop him, but she knew that she was physically no match for him. Instead, she called to some guys who were unloading a truck, pleading with them to get involved. They did not. Finally, she used her mobile phone to call the police, who came quickly and arrested the guy.

Apparently, this was not the first time that this guy has been arrested for this sort of thing. As it all-too-typical in domestic violence cases, the girlfriend who was being beaten refused to press charges. Nonetheless, [ profile] cheshcat went down to the police station and got registered as a witness -- indeed, the only witness -- to the assault. So she may need to go to court at some point to testify against him.

I am very proud of [ profile] cheshcat for getting involved when no one else would. I am not surprised -- after over twelve years together, this is exactly the sort of thing I would expect from her -- but I am proud. When she called me, she sounded clearly shaken by the whole thing... but that did not stop her from acting when action was needed. Just one reason amongst many that I love this woman so very, very much!

However, there is one question left in my mind from this. When [ profile] cheshcat called, she was worried that I would be upset with her, knowing how I despise the police. I assured her that I thought she did the best thing that should could have... and I believe that. But, as an Anarchist, I don't want to believe that this was the best possible solution. Problem is, I cannot think of a better one that was available to her.

So, I throw this out as a question to all... but especially to the other Anarchists who are reading this: Given the situation that [ profile] cheshcat found herself in, what could she have done differently to stop the violence without invoking the police? And please don't answer that, if it were you, you would have cleaned the guys clock. That's all very well and good (albeit somewhat macho), but it doesn't work for anyone who is not physically strong enough to have done so.

I am very interested in whatever anybody can come up with...


anarchist_nomad: (Default)


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