Sunday, December 28, 2008


You should automatically redirect to

Just a warning.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I've just started migrating from here to my new-and-improved blog at, which is part of my master plan to build a personal site where I can house a photography and multimedia portfolio, and host this crazy flash package I'm going to build in Egypt (more on this later. at the new site).

I've been able to import all the posts and comments from the new site, but I haven't yet gotten the tags to transfer right, added all the plug-ins I want, or customized the theme.

New project for the week: learn CSS.

When I'm a little happier with the look of things, any attempts to visit this site will automatically redirect. (how big a disaster can one little line of PHP cause? We'll see!)

Until then, update your bookmarks & hang on to your hats.

Monday, December 08, 2008

What kind of sociopath steals somebody's glasses?

I went to a truly beautiful party at the Capoeira Angola Foundation last night -- capoeira, live bossanova and samba, Veracruzan dance. By the time midnight rolled around, the party had kicked off, and people were busting out the kind of crazy cumbia and samba moves where you find yourself being flipped over and swung around the room.

So I stripped myself of wallet, keys, phone, glasses and anything else that could conceivably fly off my person while this was going on. Gathered all my stuff up, put it in my bag, and...I think you can see where this story is going.

I was in a place that felt safe, where nearly everyone knew each other. So I wasn't worried about my things, except to make sure my bag was up on a shelf where nobody would accidently step on it.

But when I was ready to go home, my bag wasn't where I'd left it, and neither was another woman's. It was 2:00 am in West Oakland, and my credit cards, id, bus pass, cellphone, ipod, glasses and keys were gone.

I couldn't even get home, because my bicycle was outside, locked-up with a key I no longer had.

The only wordly posessions I had access to were the clothes on my back and the contents of my jacket pockets -- three crumpled dollar bills, and half a pack of somebody else's menthol lights.

Everybody was suitably upset and concerned, but at that point, there was nothing anybody could do. A friend who lives in a (lightly) converted warehouse nearby let me crash in his room, and left me with a laptop and a cellphone so I could start canceling all my accounts. I got some fitful sleep in a very cold room, then started trying and trying to get in touch with my roommates so I could get back in the house, copy some keys, and commence with damage control.

Finally, around noon I got through. And then, all alone in this maze of a warehouse, I had to figure out how to get back outside.

Two doors, and guess which one I chose? That's right -- the one that would lock behind me before I realized I was in an enclosed parking lot, which couldn't be exited without a key. (Fire hazard? Perhaps.)

At that point, it didn't even matter anymore. I just climbed the fence, dropped down to the street on the other side. But wait, you have to really picture this: high noon, West Oakland, crazy-haired white girl wearing knee-high boots, a 3/4-length black coat, and the same clothes I went dancing in and then slept in. A blazer driving by slowed waaay down to watch. The security guard in the next lot over started to stir.

I just looked him in the eye, said, "I assure you, there's a perfectly reasonable explanation," and carried on.

There are points when life gets so absurd it's almost beautiful. I walked through blocks of vacant lots and falling down houses on my way to the #15 bus, coat and scarf flying in the breeze, feeling absolutely damage proof.

Fuck the world. I got bus fare and smokes.


Coming home, it was almost jarring to be back in my room with its clean sheets and fancy laptop. Right away, I had to run out and copy my roommates keys,tear apart my room to find the spare key for my bike lock, and see about replacing my phone all without the benefit of cash, credit cards or a driver's license.

I mostly got it done. The phone company owed me an upgrade, so I wasn't out much for a new phone, but I was nearly thwarted by company policy that prohibits personal checks without a driver's license (I had my passport, but this, evidently, was not good enough). The biggest thank you of the day goes to the kind, kind T-Mobile employee who decided to charge my new phone to his own account, and let me reimburse him with a check.

By 5:00, I was ready to head back to West Oakland and collect my bicycle before it too could be stolen. And then, I got an email from the Oakland Police. My bag had been found, on the 900 block of West Grand. My phone, wallet and ipod, of course, were gone. But my ids, credit cards and keys were all there, and I could pick it up downtown.

As frustrating as the whole incident was, this meant there was probably little chance of identity theft, and that I no longer had to worry about the consequences of an unsavory character coming into possession of both my house keys and my address. The past 20 hours have been pretty unpleasant, but I didn't lose anything irreplaceable, and it seems like the theft won't continue to haunt me.

So hopped on the BART, and went to the property room in the police building. Sure enough, it was my bag. The whole thing was bizarre. My shabby cloth wallet was gone, as were the few dollars that had been in it, but someone had taken the time to remove all the cards I had in the wallet (even the business cards wedged in the inside pocket that are really hard to get out) and put them back in my bag. My headlamp and knit headband were gone, but only one of my gloves.

What baffles me, though, is that my glasses were missing. I mean, it's a nasty thing to do, but I understand when someone would steal a cellphone (though the joke's on whoever tries to sell my busted-up, malfunctioning handset). But who the fuck steals somebody's prescription glasses? It's not like they were gucci frames, and I have a pretty unusual combination of vision problems. I can't imagine they could have any value to anyone other than me.

It's funny too, because of all the things I lost, the glasses are both the biggest hassle, and potentially the biggest expense. (The ipod was an older model). I have vision coverage, but I'm not sure I can wait the two weeks the University Health Center takes to make me a new pair. I have an appointment tomorrow to go in, get my eyes checked, and throw myself on their mercy. In the meantime, I'm alternating between sunglasses and a broken pair I just unearthed, that's missing the left lens (which, fortunately, is my good eye).

And that's where the story ends. I left the police station, took the bus back to West Oakland to pick up my bike, and rode home.

In my sunglasses.

Monday, November 24, 2008

UN Human Rights Committee finds the Arroyo government guilty of human rights violations

More than two years after the families of two murdered human rights activists filed a complaint against the Philippine government, the UN Human Rights Committee ruled the Arroyo government is guilty of violating the activists' right to life, and was negligent in providing remedy after they were slain.

Eden Marcellana, photo courtesy Karapatan

On April 21, 2003, human rights workers Eden Marcellana and Eddie Gumanoy were salvaged* under the watch of Arroyo's pet General Jovito Palparan, well known in the Philippines as "The Butcher of Mindoro" because of the appalling number of activists murdered in areas under his command.

Despite eyewitnesses testimony that the two activists were kidnapped by former rebels now working with the military, the Department of Justice dismissed a complaint filed by the activists' families. More than 5 years later, the case in the Philippines has not progressed.

Unfortunately, this new UN decision won't result in any disciplinary action against the Arroyo government -- it simply requires that the Philippine state provides "effective remedy." (In other words, initiate a criminal investigation, which it so spectacularly failed to do in the first place.)

Given that not a single perpetrator of a single extrajudicial killing has been held accountable for murder since the Marcos era, I can't say I feel terribly hopeful. And the last major UN tongue-lashing to Arroyo -- delivered by special rapporteur Phillip Alston -- didn't really solve anything.

But still, anything that exposes and embarrasses Arroyo on the international stage is a positive step, and activists hope this ruling may strengthen the case for Arroyo's impeachment.

Now if the US would just stop propping up her government...

*Salvage: Filipino slang for the rather common practice of murdering activists and leaving their shattered bodies to be found by the side of the road. A close relative of 'disappeared,' but with its own unique horrors.

I can't find a copy of the UNHCR decision online, so I've uploaded them as jpgs. Click on the thumbnails to view full size images. The decision is well worth reading for a detailed summary of the murders, and an overview of the ineffectiveness of the judicial system in the Philippines. It's worth noting, also, that while the government challenges whether this case was legitimatly brought in front of the UN, there's no refutation of the actual accounting of events.
I created a pdf of the document as well, which I'm happy to forward to anyone who's interested.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Censorship in the Mission

This mural, on 24th St in San Francisco's Mission district, is one I've often noticed and liked. Painted by the group Homey (Homies Organizing the Mission to Empower Youth) it unfolds across 117 feet of concrete, showing people challenging the barriers --cultural, societal and physical -- that oppress and divide them. But I never really knew anything about its history.
Today, I learned the panel above originally depicted these figures bursting a Palestine-shaped hole through the wall, and that the woman on the bottom was first painted with her kuffiyeh covering her face.

When the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council and the local office of the Anti-Defamation League caught wind of it, they pressed the San Francisco Arts Commission to have the mural changed, and managed to suspend the community beautification grant that funded the project until Homey agreed to compromise on their design.

What does it say when nice, liberal San Francisco is comfortable with public art and public discourse that challenges the legitimacy of the wall on the US-Mexican border, but censors any similar challenges to the wall between Israel and Palestine?

[In other news, right after I started typing this, a car window got smashed right below my bedroom window. My neighbors ran the guy off, but this is at least the second time this week. The neighborhood has been crazy lately]

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pumpkin Festival

I went to the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival this afternoon. It was a nice escape from the daily routine, but the whole affair had an "end of the Roman Empire" vibe I found a little hard to shake.

Scenes from the Pumpkin Pie eating contest.