Monthly Archives: July 2005

Welcome to another episode of…

Do you know what you're looking at?

Hint: It's an “unprocedure”

From Caracas to the Lone Star State

First of all…
is Marisa's new tattoo and body art blog. Add it to your daily reading and tell your friends!

Now some pictures from Venezuela. I'm writing this from Allen's house (another always gracious and generous host), and, having discovered that Rachel won't be back until Friday in Mexico am headed off to Chicago now to see her. Update schedule is still as planned though, so you can expect content to start going up tomorrow, including a new article from the Lizardman.

A shot of of the photo of the Avila Hotel where TransVision was hosted during a rainstorm, as well as a view from the front doors (and Emilio's zebra-striped Jeep).

A view from Emilio's balcony over some of the other homes in the area, as well as out over the city itself, which seems to just go on forever. These South American cities sure make Toronto feel small.

Emilio and I relaxing in his back yard in the left photo (again, many thanks to him for all the help in Venezuela), and in the right photo a goofy-looking picture of me with my friends Dolphin and Nostradkeitz who popped up from Valencia to visit.

Some photos driving around Caracas. I really should have taken more pictures…

Some photos driving from Caracas to the airport. Emilio said to mention that you can see his house in the rightmost photo — it's the green one. The city is surrounded by probably twenty miles of shanty-towns like this. I'm sure if you're ambitious you can go find them on Google Earth.

A view of the airport as we took off. The city is quite a way into the mountains, which of course would not be a safe area for an airliner to land, thus the airport is on the shore.

Thanks to Catertot for picking Jordan and I up at the airport and shuttling us around. I lost my digital camera cable in Venezuela, and luckily even though Office Depot here doesn't sell them, they were willing to give me one for free that they found in the back, I guess from a floor model or something.

Last post from Venezuela

I've been meeting a quite fascinating range of people at this event — this isn't what my story here is about, but out of the fifty or so people that are here there are two transsexuals which is rather interesting (and numerous other quirky folk). Anyway, I wanted to tell a story though from one person I met, although I'm going to have to anonymize it a bit because while I don't believe that it was told in confidence I should probably still treat it as such.

This person was on the last flight out of Newark early in the morning of September 11th, 2001, so when the attacks hit, they found themselves stranded in Europe. Like most of us, they spent the first couple of days glued to their television. Their brother is a (person of import) in New York City, and, as Bush stood overlooking the wreckage of the twin towers, next to him on TV was my new friend's brother. Bush turned to him, whispered something in his ear, and then went back to the photo op.

Of course the first thing my friend asks his brother when he makes it back to America is “what did George Bush whisper in your ear?”

So, what was George Bush's reaction to seeing the first September 11th attacks? “Wow, did ya ever seen anything like this before?” I'm not exactly sure what to make of that. Part of me finds it humanizing, part of me thinks it's a dumb-ass thing to say, and part of me thinks it's really crass…

On that story as well, I'll add that he's a journalist, so one of the stamps in his passport was from Pakistan. As he was about to board his plane (as I mentioned, he was literally on the very last flight out of Newark before the one that was hijacked), agents rushed in and started checking everyone's ID — because of his Pakistan stamp he got pulled out and got tons of questioning before they let him continue on his way. The impression he got is that they knew something was about to go very wrong…

Of course, “no one knew it would happen”… right?

Jordan and I also have lots the internal gossip on the World Transhumanist Association — it's funny because when it's a bunch of scientists and future science-oriented people, you don't except this, but the organization really seem riddled with internal strife and bickering, sometimes to the point of nearly ripping the group to shreds. There's been really surprising back stabbing and career sabotage, clashing egos and narcissism, and worse.

I don't know whether it's appropriate to talk about that aspect of it or not publicly (I don't really consider writing about it here as “public” — I mean in a published article)… It's fascinating to me though that a group of people who believe that the subject they're debating has an almost religious value in terms of absolutely transforming the future and bringing about perhaps the most important historical shift since life first began can't get past their personal differences and are just as likely to succumb to petty character flaws as anyone out there.

Other than that, today is the end of the convention. Last night I “won” an amazing item in the TransVision fundraiser auction, a first draft copy of Ramez Naam's book More Than Human. It's a spiral bound early version of his book covered head to toe with hand written notes on revisions, sections to cut, add, and so on… Outside of the obvious interest, from the point of view of someone that is both a publisher and an author personally, it's really quite enjoyable.

Arthur C. Clarke spoke this morning, and I'm a little ashamed to say that I didn't really want to get up so early (it was at 7AM or something because it's a webcast from Sri Lanka), so I did not see it. That said, the video conference part of it apparently failed totally, so they had to do it by telephone, with the phone simply held up to the mic (a bit of a fiasco)… They tell me it will be archived on the website, but they said that last year as well about the presentations and I don't think it ever happened… Still, I'm sure I'll be kicking myself for missing it in a week.

This is probably my last post before I leave Venezuela first thing in the morning. After TransVision ends, we're spending the day with Emilio (I know I keep saying this, but he's really been an amazing host and he deserves a great deal of public thanks from me for his generous hospitality) to talk business and experience Venezuela as well, and then it's off to the airport first thing in the morning, and after a day and a half of traveling I'll be back with Rachel in Mexico. It's silly, I know it's only been a few days, but it's hard for me being away from home without her.

…and since it'll be fully up and running soon, I've been thinking about how I want to paint my Montage. The picture above is total crap, but I'm thinking about an orange desert camouflage pattern with a matching interior done in tan and gray pleather. I've seen a Lamborghini painted like this and it looked good… Emilio's truck is zebra print inside and out and seeing it's got me thinking about doing something really garish. As if it's not silly enough looking already!

Oh, and here at Transvision I've been thinking about things I'd like to present, so I roughed out an article last night on “why transhumanism needs more sex” discussing both the role of sexuality in new technology and futurism, and an overview of current sexual augmentation, expansion, and new ways of experiencing sex… I don't know if they'd ever accept a talk like that (because I couldn't do it without getting very graphic), but I think you can expect it as an article soon.

Blabbering from a hotel lobby

So a bunch of cops in London mistakenly decide that some [brown] guy is a potential terrorist and start to tail him. He's of course getting mildly freaked out that a gang of men is following him (they were plainclothes officers) and once he gets to the train station and they come at him, he freaks out and runs, jumping the turnstile to try and escape. They manage to catch him, throw him to the ground and restrain him, and then one of them pushes their gun into him and fires five shots, killing him.

Oops, sorry about that.

Let's see what else is in the news. There's a BME member (who I won't mention by name or identify in any way) who runs a ranch that raises Rottweillers for sex (as in trains them to have sex with guys — the dogs themselves are never penetrated and are the “dominant” partner in the encounters) and regularly has parties although I don't think he does it for pay. Anyway, that brings me to a story from near Seattle about a guy that was killed when a horse fell on him at a “bestiality brothel”. They're using this to try and get laws in place making bestiality illegal…

To be very clear, these aren't animals being abused. They are being treated well, become aroused, and choose to engage in sex. So this isn't an animal rights issue and other than the unfortunate accident I just mentioned, no one is being hurt — this is a exclusively a moral issue, and I'm just not comfortable with morals being legislated.

The fact is that we allow animals to be kept as slaves for our personal amusement. We allow insemination by force (ie. rape), and forced semem extraction for breeding purposes. We allow animals to be raised for the sole purpose of being killed for food, clothing, or even just decorative purposes. We even allow this to happen in ways that causes the animal a great deal of pain and suffering both throughout its life and at its execution. Yet somehow having a loving — or at least lustful — relationship with an animal is criminal? It's definitely perverted but I don't see why it should be illegal.

Getting back to things that are legal, police in NYC are starting to do random searches of people who have committed no crime, and the House has just OK'd a permanent extension to the elimination of privacy and the repealing of the 4th amendment in the name of fighting terror. Oh, and Yahoo just helped put a journalist in prison for ten years. Yay for freedom.

In pseudoscience news, there's a new study claiming that porn physically damages the brain and needs not only to be stopped, but that lawsuits like the ones filed against tobacco companies could be leveled at adult entertainment companies — they call people who view erotic media as “victims under the influence of pornography“. Oh, and the author claims that because porn is viewed with a part of the brain that's different than the part that decodes language, it's not covered by the First Amendment. Thanks a lot, Christians.

Speaking of pseudoscience, I just watched Natasha Vita More (who I think is an embarrassment to transhumanism, although I am quite certain that she and her husband have equally warm feelings about me) chatting with the very bright Dr. Raj Bawa, an expert among other things in nanotechnology patent issues. She made a comment about his Spanish accent. I'm sorry, but what sort of dope doesn't clue in that a guy called Raj Bawa, who you're looking right at and is obviously Indian, is speaking with an Indian accent rather than a Spanish one?


Oh, and I just had a really nice talk with the Raelian scientist that's here about his views and the Raelian movement. If you strip away the UFO aspect of the movement, I really like where they're coming from and agree with it almost entirely, but of course the alien aspect is a little much for me. Makes me feel a little guilty though about last year's April Fools story.

Venezuelans drink a lot…

I don't know what's worse… being hung over when you wake up, or still being drunk when you wake up. Jordan and I had a few beers before supper here at the convention, and then Jose (the convention organizer) insisted that we drink as much Venezuelan rum as possible… After that, Emilio (who has been a really wonderful and generous host) took us out to a club where more and more buckets full of beer kept arriving. He then dropped us off to sleep, and as of when we left this morning at nine, he was still out partying.

Anyway, a few quick pictures, roughly in the order they were taken. First some views from the airplane. The left three photos are of Cuba and Haiti when we flew over, and then a couple of cloud shots. It was dark by the time we were landing and we were treated to am amazing view of stars above us, fields of clouds below, and a massive electrical storm in the clouds on the horizon.

Next is a picture of some of Caracas (it's an immense and highly chaotic city) as seen from the back terrace of Emilio's place from his house — he has some amazing views — as well as a very blurry picture from later in the night.

Finally, some pictures from the event itself (they're rather poor quality because I didn't bother with a flash or anything like that — they're just to help me remember). First is a picture of James Hughes talking (very nice guy on a personal level as well) — note the slide includes “the right to body modification”. Next is former minister Dan Barker from the Freedom From Religion Foundation giving his talk, and then a brilliant and perhaps to some surprisingly over-qualified scientist from the Association of Raelian scientists speaking on immortality, as well as hosting a meditation session.

Oh, and there are lots of very pretty Venezuelan science girls here. It's very funny to watch the German grad students picking up as many as a half-dozen of them at a time and disappearing up to their hotel rooms with big smiles on their faces…

I can't even being to describe how wiped out I am right now… Mostly I miss Rachel and am really looking forward to seeing her again in a few days. But I think they're serving lunch now so I'm off for a bit…