During Larry's talk at the iCommons Summit he talked about shifting his focus from IP related stuff to fighting corruption. Some took that to mean that he would be abandoning the "movement" but Larry describes in a blog post that he's not leaving us, but rather shifting his focus. He will continue to work on Creative Commons, but his public and academic will shift. Please read his post for the nuance and the specifics.
I blogged a decision to become vegan on December 13, 2006 which is approximately six months ago. I'm happy to say that it was the right decision and that I've never been healthier or happier as long as I can remember and I intend to continue being a vegan.
Other than some allergies, I've gotten rid every one of half-a-dozen or so chronic conditions including obesity, fatty liver, high uric acid (gout), heartburn/ulcers/stomach acid, nervous tension, sleeping problems and rising cholesterol. I also have more energy than I've ever had.
I've lost approximately 18 kg (40 lb) or so and have been stable at this weight for about the last two months. Most of the weight fell off during the first few months and my weight loss has slowed to a basic equilibrium. Other than the slightly scrawny look I have now, I think most people think I look healthier.
The experience is not a scientific experiment. I started exercising almost every day, quit smoking and quit excessive drinking. Each of these things seems to help the other, but I don't think it's just the diet.
When I started this diet, I thought that it would be a sacrifice and that I would be trading good health for less fun. I am happy to say that I enjoy eating as much or more than when I was eating meats and fish. Since going vegan, I've really started getting into my garden and my composting. I spend hours and hours in the garden when I'm home. I dream about my garden and my compost and have really internalized the cycle of waste/compost/plants/food.
Now when I encounter a fresh tomato in a lonely airplane, I get a burst of joy as I imagine where this tomato has been, the soil that it came from and where the soil got the nutrients to allow the tomato to grow. When I eat local vegetables in my travels, I imagine what sort of local farms or hills the veggie came from and enjoy the image of the chain of events before I received it. In addition to the wonderful bursts of taste that I now appreciate much more, I also get the happy feeling of participating in this wonderful natural cycle. Mindfully eating a breakfast plate of grilled veggies and fresh fruits is really a joy.
Clearly, your milage may vary and I don't intend to proselytize or judgmental of those who aren't vegan. However, if you've thought about being a vegan for any reason, I suggest you try it. It isn't as hard as it sounds.
We're still working on getting more contributors for the Vegan Wikia if you're interested.
I'm reading The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler. In it, they suggest that we should focus on pursuing happiness as our goal in life and the we should be careful to make a distinction between happiness and pleasure. Doing crack, drinking alcohol and even enjoying nice weather are mostly pleasures and not real happiness.
One of the core elements of happiness, according to the Dalai Lama, is compassion. Cutler describes how many psychologists will argue that man is inherently greedy and that the first thing that babies try to do is look for a nipple to suck milk - an inherently greedy desire. However, Cutler argues that babies also have a basic instinct to connect with people and illicit a smile or compassion. Babies will stare at you and smile and this makes you feel good and care about the baby. This basic social behavior is an important instinct for babies in addition to the sucking for milk. The argument is that compassion is also a basic human behavior and not something that you have to learn after you are older.
The Dalai Lama describes ways of increasing compassion. One exercise he suggests is to meditate or think deeply about someone or something (like an animal) and think of that person or animal suffering. You could imagine a lamb in fear before it is about to be slaughtered or a friend in some deep pain. As you imagine this, a feeling of compassion emerges. The Dalai Lama explains that one should be able to feel compassionate towards everyone and everything.
In general, I'm a fairly compassionate person, but I do have people and things that annoy me. Recently I've started to practice meditating on those things that annoy me and building compassion and understanding. I still find it difficult at times, but as I do it more and more, I'm finding that I'm becoming happier and happier.
We then realize that we need to develop patience to build compassion. Our patience grows by being challenged by annoying or hurtful people and events. It is these people and events that ultimately are our teachers. We should learn to cherish and be thankful for these annoying things, because without them we would not grow and become even happier. (So thank you all of you annoying people! ha!)
Compassion vs greed is something that we've been talking a lot about in the context of amateur vs professional. I think that compassion and the happiness one gains from giving and sharing is one of the fundamental driving forces of the sharing economy just as greed and the "economic man" are fundamental elements of capitalism and neo-classical economics. I think that in order to really understand how the sharing economy works, we need to understand how happiness works and what makes people choose compassion over greed.
We often make decisions which involved trying to decide which decision will make us happier. We often mistake pleasure for happiness and make the choice that may be more pleasurable instead of the choice that would provide more long-term happiness. The Dalai Lama says that just framing questions to yourself in terms of what will give you more happiness and making a distinction between happiness and pleasure will help us make the right decisions.
It often takes self-control or will to choose happiness over pleasure. As I become more conscious of my happiness, I realize that awareness of this distinction and awareness of your happiness helps to reinforce and provide feedback for your decisions. This feedback makes it easier and easier to make the "right" choice.
Update: Added "patience" in paragraph about teachers.
Last month, I blogged about one of my new "missions" - to take photographs of people and post them under a CC-BY license so that Wikipedians and other people writing articles have access to photographs that they can use in articles. There is a problematic lack of usable photos of most people as any Google Image search will prove. I've been talking about this a bit more and Larry suggest we start a "freesouls" movement to encourage people to post take and post their photos under a free license.
I've started tagging any decent quality images of people on my Flickr stream tagged with their name and the tag "freesouls". If you're interested in joining, just start using the tag.
I did a workshop about photography at the iCommons Summit and discussed freesouls. One of the issues that came up about portraits was the issue of moral rights, model releases and privacy. We've decided to make the photography discussion at iCommons a permanent thing and will be setting up a "node" for this. If you're interested in discussing these issues, please join the node and the mailing list I'm setting up. For now, you can just sign up on my wiki or the Flickr group until we have a more permanent place for the node.
We'll mostly be discussing norms and legal issues around taking and sharing portraits as well techniques, tools, services and events. We'll also try to put together a tutorial online. We're planning to do the workshop again at iCommons Summit '08 in Sapporo.
Update: You can sign up for the Photo Commons mailing list here: http://labml.ito.com/mailman/listinfo/photo-commons_labml.ito.com