How Your Electronics Are Made

I just listened to a This American Life episode about the working conditions in which all of our electronic crap is made in China. It is really quite eye-opening, and it is amazing yet totally predictable that pieces like this are not more common.

Our economic model (capitalism) guarantees that these atrocious working conditions will exist. Capitalism turns everything, including people, into mere objects. When you have an iPhone, it is just an iPhone. It is not this particular unique piece that contains aluminum from a particular mine and made by a particular person with their own unique feelings, wants, needs, fears, and passions.

The person that made your iPhone in fact does not have time or space to express themselves as a unique human. During their 12 to 16-hour working day, they aren’t even allowed to talk to their coworkers while on the assembly line. They then go “home” to a 12′ x 12′ dormitory containing 15 beds. There are even cameras in their dormitories.

One Foxconnร‚ย (the actual manufacturer of Apple crap) worker died after working for 34 hours straight. Other workers are poisoned from hexane, losing use of their hands in their 20s, or even dying from it. If they complain to the official government agency about working conditions, they get put on an official government blacklist. With nowhere to turn, many workers choose to end their life.

And of course Apple and Foxconn did not want to talk to Ira Glass. They, like all of us, see what they want to see. Apple complains a certain amount about the working conditions, but clearly not enough to prevent all of the above from happening consistently year after year.

The New York Times “liberal” Paul Krugman and “conservative” Nicholas Kristof actually speak highly of the current economic phase that China is in. Kristof actually has an article titled Two Cheers for Sweatshops. Sure, there may be problems with sweatshops, they say, but the lives of the workers are better than they were when living in their hovels. At least Kristof is honest enough to call them sweatshops. Steve Jobs wouldn’t even admit that Foxconn was a sweatshop.

You’re officially allowed to stop celebrating the life of Steve Jobs. Certainly, we’re all guilty in this globalized system. It’s complex. But the level of guilt is on a continuum from “just trying to get by” to “massively profiting from the misery of others and the destruction of our planet.” Steve Jobs was on the latter end of this spectrum.

It always amazes me that these people, people like Jobs, Kristof, Krugman, and almost any economist, are actually taken seriously. How poor are our critical thinking skills that we accept their dichotomy of abject poverty on the one hand and sweatshops on the other? Why should the lives of people in third world countries be reduced to these two choices? And how little respect we must have for these people to never realize that it is not up to us to decide what is best for them? It is our responsibility, in fact, to instead model our world around giving people their due human rights and then letting them decide what is best for themselves.

Props to my friend Greg for linking to the This American Life episode that inspired this post. This post was tapped out on an Apple Macbook Pro 15″.

Finding a Home

I have learned a lot over these past few years. And I have also changed. Some of the changes are typical. I got married, so one would expect that I am not as interested in partying or staying up late. This is true.

I want my future home to be located in an area with very low noise and light pollution. I want to live in a community with other responsible, loving adults. I have come to value responsible, trustworthy people more and more.

I want to be able to walk outside my door to nature and beauty, not a street with cars. I want to see more than civilization when I look from my window.

Basically, I want peace, health, love, and beauty to be in my life in abundance. I need an environment that supports my growth as a person. I have a wonderful partner who also greatly values these things. Together, we will find and create a home that allows us to prosper and be happy.

Our Plans

A while ago I tweeted that Mags and I would be quitting our jobs in October. Some people were confused as to what was going on, and I promised a full blog post. Here it is!

Our last day of work will be October 21. For about two months following that, we will focus on organizing our stuff and also relaxing in San Francisco. I’ve lived here for six years and haven’t had much non-job time to just experience the city. I’m very much looking forward to this ๐Ÿ™‚

In late December, we will go by train to Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia to visit family for the holidays. Around New Years we will go by train and bus to Las Vegas. Mags will be teaching for about a week while I’ll be holed up a few hours away getting my exercise and meditation on for a few weeks. Mags will join me when she is done with her teaching gig.

After this is when the real adventure starts. What follows is not set in stone, but it is the general plan. It is inevitable that we will add some things, shift some things, and subtract some things.

After Vegas, we will go to Haiti to volunteer at a refugee camp for about a month. We’ll both use our professional skills and also probably do some grunt work. They’re still suffering a lot down there over a year after the earthquake.

From there we want to go to other parts of Latin America: Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Brazil. Probably not all of those. And we don’t really know yet what we’ll do in those places.

Then we will go to Taiwan to learn Mandarin from Mags’s aunt and visit family for two-three months, followed by a couple of weeks vacation in Japan.

In the fall we will go bike touring, with camping and couch surfing, in the Northeast US for about a month. At an undetermined time of the year, we will travel the US by train, bus, hitchhiking, etc, to explore where we want to set down roots.

There will also be a couple months of unplanned time to allow for some degree of spontaneity.

What comes next, you ask? Well, we want to have a baby or babies. We want to move somewhere that we can afford some land (read: not San Francisco proper). We want to live with others in some fashion. I want to work with my hands and not often in an office. That’ll probably take the form of farming or bicycle mechanics. We want to start a home business centered around healing and well-being – physical therapy, massage, exercise, etc.

So, lots of plans. We’ve been thinking about all of this for a long time and we’re excited to get started. The nice thing is that we’re close enough now that we can actually begin to make concrete plans, buy tickets, decide things, etc.

And, just another reminder, all of the above isn’t set in stone ๐Ÿ™‚ For about 75% of it I wanted to preface it with probably or possibly. But I thought reading that over and over would get tiresome ๐Ÿ™‚

The Mysterious Dunk Poster

Seemingly twice a week you’ll hear that someone got “posterized” by a slam dunk. Like the dunk by Taj Gibson on D Wade. “Posterized” means that someone dunked on you, and therefore you’ll be on their poster that will go on the walls of countless twelve-year-old boys across the country. However, a cursory search turns up no results. You can get posters of players dunking, solo, in Slam Dunk Contests, but none of them dunking making some other guy look foolish.

So, maybe we need to end the term “posterize,” unless someone actually starts printing the posters ๐Ÿ™‚

Although, it looks like you can get this classic on eBay.

Writing Letters to Prisoners

I have been paying more attention to my dreams lately. Last night I dreamt that I was a prisoner of four years, who hadn’t even been charged with anything yet.

So today, I will write a letter to a prisoner.

Prison is a really, really awful place. From Wikipedia:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 7,225,800 people at yearend 2009 were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole รขโ‚ฌโ€ about 3.1% of adults in the U.S. resident population.[7][8] 2,297,400 were incarcerated in U.S. prisons and jails.[1][9] The U.S. incarceration rate was 748 inmates per 100,000 U.S. residents, or 0.75%.[9] The USA has the highest total documented prison and jail population in the world.

NPR recently did a story on prison towns. While they were critical of the idea of basing a town’s economy on a prison, they still stated the facts of the system a bit too matter-of-factly. They presented the story in such a way that we should feel sorry for the towns whose economies are being hurt by a drop in the prisoner population due to a recent drop in crime.

We have to remember that these are human beings, and they are being locked in cages for years at a time. Many of the folks in prison are there for drug offenses, which should be treated as the addiction that it is, not as a crime.

If we lived in a decent society, prisons would be one of many issues that we just wouldn’t stand for. We would say, OK, if you politicians aren’t going to fix the problem for us, then we’re going to march en masse to the local prison and tear the damn thing down.

But, the least I can do is write a letter. So that’s what I’ll do today.

Date Morning

Sometimes Twitter just doesn’t cut it… it’s not worth it to try to fit everything in 140 characters.

Mags and I have date morning this morning. We are going to start it off by going to Mission Dolores, which is the oldest building in San Francisco, built in 1776. It also contains the only cemetery in San Francisco, where even many native Ohlone people are buried. Almost everyone else that dies in San Francisco is buried in Colma. Mission Dolores is a Catholic church.

After that we are going to local restaurant Pomelo for brunch. Yum yum!

I hope everyone has been having a fun weekend!

Smoothie Recipe

Mags and I make smoothies somewhat regularly. This morning I made one of the best ones I’ve made so far. Here’s the inexact recipe:
two apples
one orange
one carrot
about two cups of blueberries. I used frozen.
a couple of scoops of protein powder
about a half cup of dry uncooked oatmeal
about a cup or two of milk. I used almond milk.

Blend for a couple of minutes and enjoy.

Fitness Update

Well, I haven’t lost any weight. But I’m not particularly concerned about it just yet. The reason is that I feel like I have been taking care of myself physically.

Peter-man and I have been doing daily push-ups, and we had a contest on Sunday to see who could do the most in one day. I got 500! I definitely couldn’t have done that a few weeks ago, especially considering that I wasn’t sore the next day.

I got a new cheap digital watch for Christmas, and I have been using it during my runs. It made me realize that my standard run was shorter in time (and distance, it turned out) than I thought it was. So this morning I decided to run out thirty minutes before turning around. Here was my route:

View Larger Map

I set out at 6:30am, when it was dark, so I got to see the absolutely beautiful sun rise, and the cityscape as well, from atop Diamond Heights.

I was getting frustrated by a recent slew of minor injuries. Minor ankle sprain thing, minor ab strain thing, minor knee hurty thing. But this time instead of just resting to cure the injuries, which is also important, I have asked for Mags’s help in giving me physical therapy to do for injury recovery as well as injury prevention. And I have been sticking with the PT routine pretty well.

So, adding all of that up, I feel pretty good, even though I’m not dropping the pounds yet.

I think my body is better adjusted to the exercise after this three-and-a-half weeks, so I can hopefully expect to be injured less often as well as be able to do more. I feel confident that, given the time and motivation, my body will allow me to complete a ten-mile run. Maybe this weekend?

The Good, The Bad, And The Better

I was feeling a bit restless and needing to get out of the office today, so I took the afternoon off.

After picking up a book from the library and doing some reading while eating lunch outside in front of Canyon Market, I headed home. It was a beautiful day today.

I brought the book into my bedroom and continued reading. And while I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for a while, there were two problems: The book was a little bit depressing (I’d be surprised if it wasn’t) and I wasn’t outside. I knew I’d kick myself if I finished the day without getting outside for a significant amount of time. I walked out to the living room and sat by the open window. I looked outside and felt a mild sense of melancholy wash over me as all I saw outside were houses, and houses, and more houses. I needed to see something other then civilization.

So I headed to Glen Canyon Park on my bike, sans helmet, wind blowing through my hair. I packed light: just my keys, wallet, knife, and bike lock. I left the cell phone at home. Good choice!

My first general thoughts were: wow, beautiful day. It really was. It was the perfect temperature. I locked my bike to a pole along the main path and started hiking up the hill. It was about 3:30 and I wanted to see the sun on its way down from an optimal position. I was cheered by the folks that made eye contact and responded when I said “hello.” After a few short minutes, I got all the way to the top of the hill and found a nice bench to sit down on. I made myself comfortable and laid down.

Then I noticed the constant whir of cars driving along O’Shaughnessy Boulevard. I noticed the noise from the airplanes, and the really annoying noise from some sort of weed whacker in the distance. I was still glad I came, but it definitely soured the experience a bit. I thought, “why can’t we have a peaceful bit of nature right here?” There should be restrictions on noise if it means that one can’t find a bit of nature near their home to relax in.

And then a friend arrived. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a six-inch stalk with purple flowers attached to it disappear into the ground. My interest was piqued. After a couple of minutes I discovered that it was just what I thought it was – a little groundhog or other similar furry guy that lives in holes. Every so often, he would pop his head out of his hole to take another few nibbles of grass. While I was still conscious of the annoying noises of modern civilization, I stopped caring as much while I was observing the little creature just a few feet from me.

Overall, it was an excellent afternoon off of work. And I realized that this park might be even more enjoyable right around the time when the sun comes up – same park but less external noise.