Last Day in Berlin

Today is my last day in Berlin and so far it has been memorable. At about 9:30, I met up with another person about C2C. He turned out to be an engineer who's going to start his own sustainability brand. The entire conversation took about a half an hour because he had to catch a flight.

One of the questions I asked him was how C2C could be improved. He said that he would like to see C2C become more open source. This was really interesting because I've heard a lot about this topic through my research. For the record, I still don't fully understand what that means. I have a feeling that it means that information would be more transparent. For example, EPEA has the information on what ingredients are C2C. If that list of approved ingredients were to be public knowledge, then the movement would be more open source, but then I don't know how they would make money.

As he was answering this question, he explained to me a couple of problems that they're currently facing. He told me that it takes a long time for companies to figure out what's in their products and I assume this is so because suppliers aren't easily convinced to open up their books. Another problem they encounter is stubbornness. Larger companies tend to be more stubborn in doing things the old way which, of course, is a problem because C2C requires that you redesign substantially.

Another question I asked him was the role of politics and how it could assist with the movement. He told me that the government shouldn't use punishments, but rather incentives and I assume he was referring to the policy towards companies. This makes sense and seems practical enough. I think an easy step that a government could take to contribute is to purchase C2C products.

In short, the experience was very enlightening and I'm happy to have met another person in the C2C movement. I couldn't have asked for a better last day in Berlin.

Visualizing Logic

I have recently realized my tendency to visualize my logic. It is a bit difficult to explain what I visualize because it appears differently every time. Sometimes my logic appears to me as blobs and sometimes it appears to me as common objects that I can find in my vicinity.

These visualizations are also interactive. I imagine myself moving the blobs around in a way that parallels my logic and I tend to use my hands to express these movements. From a third person perspective, I might seem like quite an odd individual when speaking.

Someone pointed out to me a few years ago that I express myself, to a large extent, with my hands. I never noticed it before and I think it might be a result of my visualization of logic. I do not know what to conclude from this realization however. I am not certain if this tool for logical thinking is positive, negative or just different.

In conclusion, I feel I should improve my visualizations somehow, maybe with some interactive computer software on a touch screen. I am actually quite curious to see the usefulness of such a program. It wouldn't have to be too complex; all I would need to do is to be able to make blobs, label them and move them around. I imagine this program would work best on a touch screen so that it could emulate my imagination as accurately as possible.

Chomsky Lecture

Text of lecture given at Nezahualc├│yotl Hall, National Autonomous University of Mexico
September 21, 2009

In thinking about international affairs, it is useful to keep in mind several principles of considerable generality and import. The first is the maxim of Thucydides: the strong do as they wish, and the weak suffer as they must. It has an important corollary: every powerful state relies on specialists in apologetics, whose task is to show that what the strong do is noble and just, and if the weak suffer it is their fault. In the contemporary West, these specialists are called "intellectuals," and with only marginal exceptions, they fulfill their assigned task with skill and self-righteousness, however outlandish the claims, a practice that traces back to the origins of recorded history.

A second leading theme was expressed by Adam Smith. He was referring to England, the greatest power of his day, but his observations generalize. Smith observed that "the principal architects" of policy in England are the "merchants and manufacturers," and they make sure that their own interests are well served by policy, no matter how "grievous" the effect on others, including the people of England, but most severely those who suffer "the savage injustice of the Europeans" elsewhere. Smith was one of those rare figures who departed from the normal practice of depicting England as an angelic power, unique in world history, which was selflessly dedicating itself to the welfare of the barbarians. One telling illustration was John Stuart Mill, one of the most decent and intelligent of Western intellectuals. In a classic essay, he explained in these terms why England had to complete its conquest of India for the purest humanitarian ends. He wrote right at the time of England's worst atrocities in India, when the true end of the further conquest was to enable England to gain a monopoly of opium and to establish the most extraordinary narcotrafficking enterprise in world history, in order to force China with gunboats and poison to accept British manufactures, which China did not want.

Mill's oration is the cultural norm. Smith's maxim is the historical norm.
Today, the principal architects of policy are not "merchants and manufacturers," but rather financial institutions and multinational corporations. A sophisticated current version of Smith's maxim is the "investment theory of politics" developed by political economist Thomas Ferguson, which regards elections as occasions when groups of investors join together to control the state, by essentially buying the elections. It is a very good predictor of policy over a long period, as he has shown.

Moral Actions

"The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life."

- Einstein

My Quest

The trip to Venlo took about 11 hours – 10 hours on the bus and 1 hour on the train. I left at about 7:30 in the morning and arrived at about 6:30 in the evening. What was surprising to me was that the weather during the whole trip was the same, and I went straight across Germany. But it wasn't until I arrived that it started raining so it didn't give me a chance to see much of the city. I ended up waiting in front of a hotel for my host to pick me up.

That night I got to meet the really nice couple and their adorable 8 month old baby. I didn't end up chatting that much because it was already pretty late and I had that meeting with that guy in the morning who, by the way, wasn't the mayor, my mistake.

My meeting with the guy was set at 10, but he informed me that he would be in another meeting at that time so I would be received by his right hand man who turned out to be a 24 year old grad student. He was really nice and showed me a lot of the current C2C developments in Venlo. He first took me to this “Viewture Room” where they had information about future plans regarding C2C, but all of the information was in Dutch so it wasn't as fruitful as it could have been. The grad student wanted to show me this tool that he had been putting together and luckily there was a projector in the Viewture Room so I ended up having a power point presentation specifically for me.

The tool he designed was a software for architects to help determine how C2C their blueprints were. One would have to input all the relevant information of the planned structure e.g. the dimensions, what direction it's facing, the surroundings etc. It was actually quite enlightening and I can imagine it being very useful in the future.

After that he took me to another info center which was located in the center of the city. It had some more information about the renovations they have planned, but it was again all in Dutch so we didn't end up staying long. After 10 minutes of walking around in the city, we went to meet the guy who turned out to be the coordinator of C2C for Venlo. At first, I was really excited to meet him, I was smiling and being very optimistic, and I even said exactly what I wanted to say. He basically told me that if I wanted to help the C2C movement, I would have to be an entrepreneur; I would have to provide some service and find someone who would be willing to pay for it. That's when my smiles went away. Being an entrepreneur doesn't fit my character so I was saddened to hear his advice. He said that C2C is too early in its development to take on people who sit on the sidelines.

He told me that there was a group of companies that meet every month to figure out ways to implement C2C, but were not being very productive due to some conflicts. He said that they could use someone to help them get their act together obviously implying that it could be something that I could do. Unfortunately, the companies were not meeting during my stay in Venlo so if I were to take his advice, I would have to come back and probably move there before I could start contributing to the movement.

The meeting wasn't all negative, he ended up referring me to a person who organized a group of designers called the QreamTeam. I know, it's a pretty funny name. And although I had the information in my hands, I was reluctant to call him due to my fear of bothering strangers.

The meeting ended at about 1:30 and I went straight back to the house. I sat on the bed and thought for about 5 minutes. I looked at the information I had written down and ultimately made the phone call. The guy wasn't in Venlo at the time so he referred me to his colleague who was. I hung up the phone and immediately called his colleague. To my luck, his colleague picked up the phone and told me that I could come down right now and meet him. So I walked back downtown which took about 15 minutes and met the colleague who was the project leader of the designers. He gave me a really good vibe right when he greeted me.

He then introduced me to a couple of people and took me to a back room where they had a stockpile of random products. He showed me a few products that were C2C certified and then proceeded to explain to me his personal experience with the whole process. It wasn't all positive, but he did believe in the C2C philosophy.

I explained to him in the beginning that I was a person who was very passionate about C2C and who would like to learn as much as I could about it so that I could figure out a way to contribute. He was very informative during the whole meeting, but ultimately couldn't offer me anything which was understandable. However, he did refer me to another person who was a key player for C2C in the Netherlands, but the only thing was that his office was in a different city, Eindhoven. Not surprisingly, I was reluctant to go because of my lack of assertiveness, but I did gather up the strength to call the guy, which was good because it eventually led to my trip to Eindhoven.

A one way ticket to Eindhoven was about 9 euros and it took about 40 minutes to get there. I left the next morning to his office which was located at the International Center for Sustainable Excellence. The ICSE was a newly opened center that exhibited a variety of sustainable products and provided office space for sustainable companies. I'm still not sure exactly what the main purpose of the ICSE was, but it gave me a positive impression.

The guy himself also gave me a good impression; he was really nice, really cheerful. He basically acted as if everything in his life was going smoothly. I told him why I was there and he responded by telling me his personal story with C2C which was a bit long so I don't remember most of it, but through his personal story I could tell that he was a key player in the entire C2C movement. He, in the end, like the last 2 guys, could not offer me anything, but did refer to me another person. He printed out a few sheets of paper full of people in the C2C movement, but told me to contact this one guy who was head of personnel at the Environmental Protection and Encouragement Agency in Hamburg. The EPEA does all the materials assessment for C2C in Europe.

After the meeting, I decided to walk around the exhibition to take a look at the products. Most of the information was in Dutch again, but they did display a couple of products that I could touch. As I was reading the description of a product, a random man came up to me and explained what he was doing there. He told me that he founded a business community called City of Tomorrow which basically helps different companies work together to build a sustainable future. He said the mission statement was to place the expiration date of human existence on infinity. He further explained that the community would take a more holistic approach to build a sustainable future. The chat ended shortly because he had some family matters to attend to, but I got his card.

After I checked out all the products, I went straight home and stayed in bed for the rest of the day. The next day was my first and only day to relax. I spent a lot of time contemplating what happened and what my next move should be. I joined the family for a pleasant dinner and got to know them better. At about 9, I went back upstairs and contemplated some more and then went to sleep.

Now that my trip is over, I feel as if I've grown up just a bit more. This trip really pushed my limits and I'm glad it did. I overcame the obstacles easier than I expected and I think I have my experience working on the election to thank for that. I think my next stop will be Hamburg, maybe in a couple of weeks or so.

So it seems that I'm going to stay in Berlin a bit longer, but how much longer, who knows? Now, I have to figure out what the best way is for me to extend my visa.

To conclude, I want to point out that all the people who I spoke to gave me the impression that most of the people in the C2C movement are businessmen and not environmentalists. Even though this isn't inherently a bad thing, I don't think it's ideal. I felt as if I were one of the very few who actually wanted to save the world.

Why I Paint My Nails

Many have posed this question to me and I have hitherto been unable to succinctly express my philosophy. Moreover, my previous explanations have been so distinct from one another that a third party might deem them unrelated. Here is my current attempt to explain why.

There are two reasons why I paint my nails. The first reason is because I want to express my discontent with blind obedience. The acceptance of this custom of painting nails is an insignificant but symbolic example of blind obedience. The second reason is so that people ask me, which in turn, provides me with an opportunity to share my beliefs.