Iron Cocktail Club: Mott and Mulberry

The Iron Cocktail Club is a weekly drinking group, inspired by Victoria Aveson. In it, each week, we pick a cocktail and then attempt to make it based on what we have in our homes. The drink is announced 1-2 hours before the meeting.

For the first Iron Cocktail Club, I picked the Mott and Mulberry. As I decided on the drink, I made a point to pick something that I lack at least one ingredient for.

Original recipe

Ingredients:
1 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. Luxardo Amaro Abano
3/4 oz. fresh-pressed apple cider or tart apple juice
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz. demarara syrup

Combine in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Strain into a glass over ice and garnish with thin apple slices.

Luzardo Amaro Abano – a medium bitter amaro with cardamom, cinnamon, and bitter orange peel – https://www.luxardo.it/liqueurs-and-distillates/amaro-abano/

My recipe

Ingredients:
1 oz. rye whiskey
1 oz. campari
3/4 oz. mango juice
1/2 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz. cinnamon cardamom syrup
1 dash orange bitters

Combine in a large mason jar with ice, cover, and shake. Strain into a glass over ice and garnish with thin apple slices.

A note on the cinnamon cardamom syrup: I made a cinnamon cardamom simple syrup by taking a cup of sugar and caramelizing it. Then I added a cup of water, three sticks cinnamon, and five cardamom pods. I let these boil away for a while before turning off the heat, letting it cool, and straining.

Crisis Response (2)

The purpose of this post is to give a more general picture of how I live and deal with my mental health on a day-to-day basis. The hope is that through following practices and exhibiting behaviors that are good for my overall mental health, I will need to rely on acute crisis response behaviors less frequently.

Much like my previous post on the matter, this is about what I do and works for me.

Make schedules

Make a physical or digital schedule. Don’t just keep it in your head, but actually write it down in a way you can look at it. This helps you hold yourself accountable to getting these things done, because they’re on a schedule.

Explicitly add things like breaks, exercise, and meals to your schedules.

Build routines

Wake up at the same time each day, go to bed around the same time each day. Pick some times to have meals, or take breaks.

I work in two-hour chunks and then take 30-60 minutes off, depending on which break it is. I take these breaks away from my computer and read, exercise, stretch, nap, or have a beverage, snack, or meal. I’ve gotten back into taking care of my skin, as it gives me more ritual for the day.

Routines are not just on a daily basis. Come up with weekly routines as well: play games on Wednesday nights, have coffee wit a friend (via jitsi or whatever) on Tuesday afternoons. Call a family member Friday night. Watch a movie Sunday afternoon. I wash my hair twice a week – Sunday and Wednesday.

If you’re like me, it’s easy to have days and times blur together. Having things that happen on certain days help mark the passage of time, and having different times you do things also helps shape your day.

Have separate mental and physical spaces, and mark them however works for you

I do not wear leggings on a weekday, unless it’s under a dress or skirt. On the other hand, I don’t wear work clothes on weekends (unless there’s a particular reason to). I work from the kitchen, so I take breaks in other parts of the apartment (we are very lucky and have a large apartment). If possible, stay out of your bedroom (see more on that below) during the day. Work on associating different parts of your home with different activities.

Find things you can be in control of

Many, many people are struggling with the lack of control they have over the world around them right now. Find little, healthy things you can control. I make my bed every day, even if it’s just spreading the blanket and putting the pillows on top of it.

Keep your space clean, organize the fridge and cabinets, open the windows and get some fresh air in. Decorate. Rejoice in the fact that you have things you can control, no matter how small they are.

Exercise!

Exercising and being active is basically one of the best things you can do for your mental health. I exercise in 15-30 minute blocks, several times a day, so it doesn’t feel like a big commitment. I do body weight exercises, yoga, and go for runs. Sometimes I dance or do barre videos from YouTube.

When I take my work breaks, I walk around the apartment or stretch or both. Sometimes I just carry something up and down the stairs.

Sleep Hygiene

Maintaining good sleep hygiene is the second most important thing you can do. Here are somethings you can do:

  • go to bed at the same time every night
  • wake up at the same time every day
  • no devices in bed, unless you’re using something to provide sound/white noise
  • only use your bed/room for sleeping
  • do the same things every night the 30 minutes before bed
  • sleep without lights on, or get a nightlight designed to be gentle on your eyes, or automatically go off after some time
  • don’t eat too close to bedtime
  • wear socks if your feet get cold
  • if you wake up and can’t get back to sleep, leave your bed/room and read or whatever it is you do when you can’t sleep

Focus on your Second Thoughts

You’re going to have a lot of stressful, terrible, questionable, disturbing, and anxiety inducing thoughts. These will be your First Thoughts, that come in response to something. After you have your First Thought, intentionally create a Second Thought that challenges your First Thought.

For example: Your roommate finishes the eggs, so you cannot bake the cake you were planning on making. You think they’re mean and terrible and unreasonable and selfish. Then, you remind yourself that maybe they were just hungry, or forgot you were going to bake a cake, or were not feeling well themselves and really needed those eggs to feel better about their current situation.

Build a team

Find 3-6 people in your life you can reach out to when things get really bad. Ask them explicitly to be on your team, and lay out what the expectations are. In general, my expectations for my team are that, should I become overwhelmingly stressed or anxious, I will reach out to one of them to vent, distraction, or for help planning how to respond or overcome the situation that is causing me problems. Also, explicitly state to each of them that it’s okay if they don’t have time for you at a specific moment – that’s why you have a team. I’ve found that people on my team will frequently make time for me when I need it, even if I have other things going on.

If you have trouble reaching out for help when you need it, suggest a code phrase that will communicate that you need your team. Some I like are:

  • What have you been reading lately?
  • Did you see the new Werner Herzog documentary?
  • Have you seen the new Homestuck?

So

As another reminder, these are things I do, and they work for me. Not all of them work all the time, and sometimes I don’t do them even when I should. Experiment and see what works in your life.

Computing Under Quarantine

Under the current climate of lock-ins, self-isolation, shelter-in-place policies, and quarantine, it is becoming evident to more people the integral role computers play in our lives. Students are learning entirely online, those who can are working from home, and our personal relationships are being carried largely by technology like video chats, online games, and group messages. When these things have become our only means of socializing with those outside our homes, we begin to realize how important they are and the inequity inherent to many technologies.

Someone was telling me how a neighbor doesn’t have a printer, so they are printing off school assignments for their neighbor. People I know are sharing internet connections with people in their buildings, when possible, to help save on costs with people losing jobs. I worry now even more about people who have limited access to home devices or poor internet connections.

As we are forced into our homes and are increasingly limited in the resources we have available, we find ourselves potentially unable to easily fill material needs and desires. In my neighborhood, it’s hard to find flour. A friend cannot find yeast. A coworker couldn’t find eggs. Someone else is without dish soap. Supply chains are not designed to meet with the demand currently being exerted on the system.

This problem is mimicked in technology. If your computer breaks, it is much harder to fix it, and you lose a lot more than just a machine – you lose your source of connection with the world. If you run out of toner cartridges for your printer – and only one particular brand works – the risk of losing your printer, and your access to school work, becomes a bigger deal. As an increasing number of things in our homes are wired, networked, and only able to function with a prescribed set of proprietary parts, gaps in supply chains become an even bigger issue. When you cannot use whatever is available, and instead need to wait for the particular thing, you find yourself either hoarding or going without. What happens when you can’t get the toothbrush heads for your smart toothbrush due to prioritization and scarcity with online ordering when it’s not so easy to just go to the pharmacy and get a regular toothbrush?

In response to COVID-19 Adobe is offering no-cost access to some of their services. If people allow themselves to rely on these free services, they end up in a bad situation when a cost is re-attached.

Lock-in is always a risk, but when people are desperate, unemployed, and lacking the resources they need to survive, the implications of being trapped in these proprietary systems are much more painful.

What worries me even more than this is the reliance on insecure communication apps. Zoom, which is becoming the default service in many fields right now, offers anti-features like attendee attention tracking and user reporting.

We are now being required to use technologies designed to maximize opportunities for surveillance to learn, work, and socialize. This is worrisome to me for two main reasons: the violation of privacy and the normalization of a surveillance state. It is a violation of privacy, to have our actions tracked. It also gets us used to being watched, which is dangerous as we look towards the future.

Crisis Response

I have bipolar disorder. Bipolar has a variety of symptoms that show up differently in different people. My symptoms began to show up around 20 years ago, which means I have 20 years of experience on dealing with moments of acute mental health crisis.

I’m probably going to do two blog posts: one that details general mitigation techniques on how I manage my mental health overall and this one, which will cover what I do in specific moments of crisis.

A “moment of crisis” refers to not a general life condition, but a specific moment of experience that is a crisis. This can be an internal or external crisis. While we might be in a moment of crisis as a society, you as an individual are in one when you are overwhelmed, experiencing trauma or the memory of trauma, or having a panic attack, for example.

Now that we have some background out of the way, here are some very specific things I do – tools in my tool belt – for managing moments of crisis.

Distraction

The best thing to do is, at a point when you’re calm, make a list of healthy things you can do to distract you. There are two types of distractions I want to cover here: actions and activities.

Actions are things you can do immediately, at this moment, that will refocus or distract you. They are quick responses that require little to no preparation and minimal commitment. These are useful when I am actually starting to panic. My list of these includes:

  • counting down from 100
  • running my hands under hot water
  • splashing cold water on my face
  • putting ice on my face or neck
  • Peeling and smelling a citrus fruit
  • Tensing then releasing my muscles, starting from the toes and going up to the forehead
  • Stand on one foot and move my upper body (it’s surprisingly hard!)
  • do some basic physical activity repeatedly (like squats, picking up and putting down something heavy, etc)

Activities require more preparation and accouterments. They are for when I feel unreasonably stressed, or feel panic coming on. My list of these includes

  • bake
  • go for a run
  • dance
  • play music
  • hug the baby
  • cuddle the cat
  • pet the dog
  • do yoga
  • look at photos of monkeys riding dogs with little cowboy hats on (this always makes me laugh)

Find a sense of control

Many people I know feel out of control right now. Here are some healthy things I do when I feel out of control:

  • take a shower
  • change my clothes
  • brush my teeth
  • make the bed or change the sheets
  • clean or organize something small

So

Like I said, these are just things that work for me in the middle of moments of crisis. They may not work for you, but others things will!

Seven hundred words on Internet access

I wrote this a few months ago, and never published it. Here you go.

In the summer of 2017, I biked from Boston, MA to Montreal, QC. I rode across Massachusetts, then up the New York/Vermont border, weaving between the two states over two days. I spent the night in Washington County, NY at a bed and breakfast that generously fed me dinner even though they weren’t supposed to. One of the proprietors told me about his history as a physics teacher, and talked about volunteer work he was doing. He somewhat casually mentioned that in his town there isn’t really internet access.

At the time (at least) Washington County wasn’t served by broadband companies. Instead, for $80 a month you could purchase a limited data package from a mobile phone company, and use that. A limited data package means limited access. This could mean no or limited internet in schools or libraries.

This was not the first time I heard about failings of Internet penetration in the United States. When I first moved to Boston I was an intern at One Laptop Per Child. I spoke with someone interested in bringing internet access to their rural community in Maine. They had hope for mesh networks, linking computers together into a web of connectivity, bouncing signals from one machine to another in order to bring internet to everyone.

Access to the Internet is a necessity. As I write this, 2020 is only weeks away, which brings our decennial, nationwide census. There had been discussions of making the census entirely online, but it was settled that people could fill it out “online, by telephone, or via mail” and that households can “answer the questions on the internet or by phone in English and 12 Non-English languages.” [1][2]

This is important because a comprehensive census is important. A census provides, if nothing else, population and demographics information, which is used to assist in the disbursement of government funding and grants to geographic communities. Apportionment, or the redistribution of the 435 seats occupied by members of the House of Representatives, is done based on the population of a given state: more people, more seats.

Researchers, students, and curious people use census data to carry out their work. Non-profits and activist organizations can better understand the populations they serve.

As things like the Census increasingly move online, the availability of access becomes increasingly important.

Some things are only available online – including job applications, customer service assistance, and even education opportunities like courses, academic resources, and applications for grants, scholarships, and admissions.

The Internet is also a necessary point of connection between people, and necessary for building our identities. Being acknowledged with their correct names and pronouns decreases the risk of depression and suicide among trans youths – and one assumes adults as well. [3] Online spaces provide acknowledgment and recognition that is not being met in physical spaces and geographic communities.

Internet access has been important to me in my own mental health struggles and understanding. My bipolar exhibits itself through long, crushing periods of depression during which I can do little more than wait for it to be over. I fill these quiet spaces by listening to podcasts and talking with my friends using apps like Signal to manage our communications.

My story of continuous recovery includes a particularly gnarly episode of bulimia in 2015. I was only able to really acknowledge that I had a problems with food and purging, using both as opportunities to inflict violence onto myself, when reading Tumblr posts by people with eating disorders. This made it possible for me to talk about my purging with my therapist, my psychiatrist, and my doctor in order to modify my treatment plan in order to start getting help I need.

All of these things are made possible by having reliable, fast access to the Internet. We can respond to our needs immediately, regardless of where we are. We can find or build the communities we need, and serve the ones we already live in, whether they’re physical or exist purely as digital.

[1]: https://census.lacounty.gov/census/ Accessed 29.11.2019
[2]: https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/03/one-year-out-census-bureau-on-track-for-2020-census.html Accessed 29.11.2019
[3]: https://news.utexas.edu/2018/03/30/name-use-matters-for-transgender-youths-mental-health/ Accessed 29.11.2019

Endorsing Megan Byrd-Sanicki and Justin Colannino for the OSI Board

I am endorsing Megan Byrd-Sanicki and Justin Colannino for the Board of Directors of the Open Source Initiative. As an individual member of the OSI, I intend to vote for Megan. I intend to advise Affiliate Members to vote for Justin Colannino.

I’ve been on the Open Source Initiative board of directors for four years and have seen a lot going on in the organization during that time, as a board member, as an officer of the board, and as an activist focused on ethics in technology.

I pick these two candidates out of sincere enthusiasm for both of them, but I also pick them out of concern for the future of the OSI and open source.

These candidates as people

I will start off by disclosing that I actually just really like Megan and Justin. I think they’re both great humans who do wonderful things and are genuinely nice. They have traits I admire – they are generous, work hard for what they believe in, and keep their egos in check.

Megan and Justin are presenting themselves as people in their running from the OSI board. They work for two of the major tech companies (Google and Microsoft, respectively), however they don’t present themselves in context of their employers. They instead focus on their work for the open source community as members of the open source community.

They have lots of experience with non-profit organizations – having worked for important non-profits in the open source ecosystem, and continuing to volunteer within the community outside of their paid work.

These candidates as potential board members

Megan has an incredibly impressive non-profit background and an amazing ability to get things done. She knows how organizations work, what they need to work, and how to make that happen. The OSI needs to expand its organizational capacity through hiring and recruiting non-board volunteers. Megan understands this and knows how to make it happen. In spite of its age, the OSI lacks a lot of the infrastructure necessary for a growing non-profit, and I believe she’ll help rectify that.

For the past several months Megan has served as an advisory resource to the OSI – connecting us with consultants and experts to help with these organizational issues. She has demonstrated a desire to see the OSI succeed by actually helping it take the steps forward it needs to.

When we were making the decision to appoint board members, Megan was nominated by multiple people. I reached out to the nominees I could find contact information for. I had a great conversation with her, during which time she expressed a concrete vision for how she could participate and what she would bring. She had actual plans and detailed knowledge on how to execute them. I was impressed then and I was ecstatic to see that her interest in the OSI continued such that she stepped up to run for the board.

I’ve known and worked with Justin in several different FOSS contexts. He’s worked with friends of mine in a wide range of legal contexts – covering just about everything lawyers do in open source. I respect his expertise and opinions not just because he has shown himself to be knowledgeable and trustworthy, but because others I respect hold him in equally high regard.

Justin is familiar with the needs of non-profits from all of his work with them over the years – as an employee, as counsel, and as a volunteer. He understands what non-profits need to succeed from his years of experience. He is dedicated to the success of FOSS organizations and projects in ways I have seen few others demonstrate. I would especially like to highlights Justin’s work in helping to set up the legal foundations that enable Outreachy to be so successful and help so many people.

Justin is, of course, an expert in licensing and would be a boon for the organization. He goes a step further than just knowing about licensing and the Open Source Definition through theoretical and practical experience. Justin really believes in the ethics behind the OSD.

My major concerns

When defining myself in the context of open source, I am above all else a true believer and user freedom activist. This is what drives all the work I’ve done and do in my professional and volunteer life, from starting my involvement as a organizer at Penguicon in 2007; my volunteering with Debian, the OSI, the Software Freedom Conservancy, and Software Heritage; my work at the Berkman (Klein) Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, One Laptop Per Child, MIT, the Free Software Foundation, and the GNOME Foundation; and my many additional projects relating to FOSS communities, some of which you can find published in the Journal of Peer Production.

My fear for the future of open source is that it becomes overly controlled by corporate interests. I think it is currently on this path and will only become worse if things continue the way they’re going. The OSI carries responsibility for this, as well as other individuals and organizations. It is imperative moving forward the the OSI is led by people who focus on the rights recognized and protected by the process of open source licensing. The board members need to understand the way open source fits into the narrative of our undeniable human rights.

Megan and Justin both work for some of the largest, most monolithic, and, at times, most egregious tech companies out there. However, these companies have also done a lot of good under their guidance. Most importantly, however, is that Megan is not running as an employee of Google and Justin is not running as an employee of Microsoft. They are running as people who care about the future of open source.

Banana Bread

Okay, I don’t have any pictures because we ate this pretty quickly. It was, in my opinion, the best banana bread I’ve made, so I need to capture the recipe. I made this for a friend of mine who loves adding amaretto into baked goods. We didn’t have any at the time, so I used almond extract.

Ingredients

  • 4 over-ripe bananas mashed
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 8 tbsp salted butter room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp almond extract (or amaretto)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 and butter a loaf pan
  • Cream the brown sugar and the butter together
  • Mash the bananas in. You can also run them through a blender or food processor before adding them
  • Add in the eggs and mix it all together
  • Add in all the dry ingredients (flour, oats, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon) and mix it up
  • Now add the vanilla, almond extract, and the chocolate chips
  • After everything is mixed together, pour it into your pan and bake it for 45-60 minutes!

IoT

We, in the US, are starting to  talk more widely about the dangers posed by Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This is great!

IoT devices are by and large terrible. They’re truly horrendous. They can be nice in a lot of ways — I enjoy controlling the music in the kitchen from my phone — but they normalize the situation where we trade our privacy and data for convenience. This is not just true of obvious surveillance technologies, though it is especially true for them and I want to talk about those.

Most of the conversation I have seen about surveillance IoT — like Ring doorbells and home surveillance devices — is focused on the insecurity of it. Major news outlets covered when a girl was harassed by someone hacking into a Ring camera her parents installed into her bedroom.

Ignoring how creepy it is that her parents decided to install a camera in her bedroom, this story is disturbing because it’s about someone violating the sanctity of what should be a safe space for a family and, moreso, for a child. This is posed as a security issue affecting an individual.

We need to shift the conversation in two ways:

1) No amount of security will make these kind of devices safe;

and

2) This is not just about the individual — these types of surveillance put communities at risk.

I think the latter is the more important point, and something I want to focus on. The conversation should not just be about the security risk of someone breaking into my home surveillance. Instead it should focus on how, for example, surveillance systems are putting your neighbors at risk, especially as these systems are being co-opted by law enforcement and faulty facial recognition tech is being used.

We should talk about how victims of domestic violence and stalking can be monitored and tracked more easily by their abusers.

I believe strongly that the people making decisions, designing, building, and selling these technologies have a responsibility to the people who purchase them as well as those who come in contact with them. I view broadening the conversations beyond the “unhackability” of devices as a necessary next step.

 

 

MollyGive 2019

After much deliberation, I decided to not do MollyGive 2019. This was a bit of a blow, especially after MollyGive 2018 having a lot less reach than previous years. (For MollyGive 2018 I supported a large, matching donation to the Software Freedom Conservancy.)

I’ve spent the past seven months paying helping a friend pay their rent. I’ve paid for groceries, train tickets, meals, coffee, books for people I know and people I don’t. Medications for strangers. I stopped keeping track of the “good” I was doing, and instead just gave when I saw people in need.

This is counter to my past behavior. I’ve been burned a few times when offering funds to people who have a major need in their life — thousands of dollars to help people make major life changes only to have them instead use the money on other things.

I believe pretty strongly that, generally, people in need know what they need and are capable of taking care of it themselves. I don’t think it’s my place to dictate or prescribe. The experience of being burned and my thought about people knowing what they need were at odds.

At the same time, I saw people suffering around me. People who know what they needed .People in positions I’ve been in: food or medication? A winter jacket or rent? I have the resources to take care of those material needs, so I supported them when the opportunity presented itself.

I have a friend who is scheduled to have surgery this spring. They have been given advice on how to fundraise for the surgery. In fact, people facing  the prospect of life saving, crushing debt generating treatments are given lots of information about how to run successful crowd funding campaigns. This is appalling. You should be disgusted by it. You need to be disgusted by it.

Giving to charity helps. Giving to your neighbors helps. However, this is not enough. The sheer level of suffering and injustice in the world, in your country, your neighborhood, your home is sickening and giving ourselves a reprieve by donating to charities will not fix these systemic problems.

All of that being said, I have made donations to non-profits, and will make more. I hope you’ll join me in supporting groups that are doing good, necessary work. I also hope you’ll join me in striving to bring about the big societal changes that will make it so we don’t need so many charities.

My career has been in non-profits, it is my dearest hope to one day be out of a job. In the mean time, I’ll continue to work, and I’ll continue to give in whatever ways I can.

Consent

I was walking down the platform at the train station when I caught eyes with a police officer. Instinctively, I smiled and he smiled back. When I got closer, he said “Excuse me, do you mind if I swipe down your bag?” He gestured to a machine he was holding. “Just a random check.”

The slight tension I’d felt since I first saw him grabbed hold of my spine, shoulders, and jaw. I stood up a little straighter and clenched my teeth down.

“Sure, I guess,” I said uncertainly.

He could hear something in my voice, or read something in my change of posture. “You have to consent in order for me to be allowed to do it.”

Consent. I’d just been writing about consent that morning, before going to catch the train down to New York for Thanksgiving. It set me on edge and made more real what was happening: someone wanted to move into my personal space. There was now a legal interaction happening. “I don’t want to be difficult, but I’d rather you didn’t if you don’t have to.”

“It’s just a random check,” he said. “You don’t have to consent.”

“What happens if I say no?”

“You can’t get on the train,” he gestured to the track with his machine.

“So, my options are to let you search my bag or not go see my family for Thanksgiving?”

“You could take a bus,” he offered.

I thought about how I wanted to say this. Words are powerful and important.

“I consent to this in as much as I must without having any other reasonable option presented to me.”

He looked unconvinced, but swiped down my bag anyway, declared it safe, and sent me off.

Did I really have the right to withhold consent in this situation? Technically, yes. I could have told him no, but I had no other reasonable option.

At the heart of user freedom is the idea that we must be able to consent to the technology we’re directly and indirectly using. It is also important to note that we should not suffer unduly by denying consent.

If I don’t want to interact with a facial recognition system at an airport, I should be able to say no, but I should not be required to give up my seat or risk missing my flight spending exceptional effort as a consequence of refusing to consent. Consenting to something that you don’t want to do should not be incentivized, especially by making you take on extra risk or make extra sacrifices.

In many situations, especially with technology, we are presented with the option to opt out, but that doesn’t just mean opting out of playing a particular game: it can mean choosing whether or not to get a life saving medical implant; not filing your taxes because of government mandated tax software; or being unable to count yourself in a census.

When the choice is “agree or suffer the consequences” we do not have an option to actually consent.