Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I'm about half-way through The Heart of Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh who wrote the book The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh that I wrote about a little while ago. So far it's a wonderful book that describes Buddhism broadly but also brings it down to earth very specifically.

The chapter on "Right Speech" starts with this description of Right Speech.

Forth Mindfulness Training
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy, and hope. I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
I don't think anyone should be forced to follow this code and I'm not suggesting that it become a bloggers code or anything. I just find that it resonates with my personal philosophy that is evolving over time.

In this context, I now regret the tone in which I wrote the whiny post about the W Hotel not wanting to store a bike for me. I was frustrated and annoyed and wrote something that was probably somewhat cruel considering no one was really at fault. After I posted that note, I sent the link to the W. I got a call from someone responsible there who apologized to me. I realized that I really didn't need an apology and what I really wanted was for them to try to improve generally if possible. I really didn't feel good having made someone feel bad, but since I wrote that post in a somewhat cruel way, it probably did make people feel bad.

Anyway, I'm not trying to become a buddhist monk or anything, but possibly because of my new rather non-violent diet, I'm feeling more and more at peace and less and less happy about any cruelty or un-mindful actions on my part and regret silly things like that whiny post.

Drawing on the Artist Within
When I was in the Bay Area last week, I visited Howard Rheingold and went for walk with him and Pearl. (More photos: 1 | 2)

We were talking about meditation and other related activities. Howard recommended drawing as another relaxing and mind expanding activity. I told Howard that I had no talent and that drawing was one thing I would never be good at. Howard smirked and explained that there really wasn't much talent necessary for basic drawing and that he thought I would enjoy it.

I was skeptical but Howard gave me his copy of Drawing on the Artist Within by Betty Edwards from his library and I lugged the huge hardcover book onto the plane and read it. I was prepared to be surprised, but I was more surprised than I imagined I could be.

Betty Edwards starts out explaining that drawing is like reading and writing for the right hemisphere of the brain. The right brain deals with spacial and relationship oriented things and is good at dealing with chaos and complexity. She explains that people who are "not good at drawing" typically have strong left brain tendencies which often prevents the right brain from taking charge of drawing.

The right brain likes order and abstraction and parses everything you see into symbols. For instance, instead of seeing small person, medium sized person, large person, if the people are framed correctly, you will see person (far away), person (medium distance), person (close) and parse the different sizes as distances rather than three separate sized people. This is useful when you are trying to assess a visual image in a left brain sort of way. However, when you are trying to draw an image or notice differences or details, your left brain can get in the way.

When you are trying to draw a human figure, for instance, you will often draw a round head, eyes, hands, feet, etc. Each component will look like some abstraction of that part of the body. In fact, depending on the direction from which you are viewing that part of the body or person, the shape of each of those elements are infinitely different. When your left brain is in charge you label each element, for instance, "that's an eye" and draw what your left brain thinks of as an eye element instead of what you actually see. That's how people like me end up with child-like drawings.

She gives an example of an American flag hanging on the wall. The first week, her students draw things that looks like parallelograms with straight bars. The next week she tells them to notice that the bars cross each other in real life at angles. The students then draw a slightly more realistic flag with folds/waves. The next week she tells them to notice that the bars are different widths and the stars are each a different shape. This is paradoxical to the left brain since it is imagining the symbolic view of each element. In fact, when you look at a flag hanging on the wall and the image is flattened onto a 2D view like a drawing, all of the elements turn into different shapes.

She gives the reader a number of techniques to "trick" the left brain into letting go - drawing very fast, drawing very slow or drawing an image that is upside down. She presents exercises that show how easy it is to dramatically improve your drawing by just getting your left brain to let go so that your right brain can see things as they are and not abstracted.

The right brain is a very important partner in problem solving and thinking and your left brain and right brain already have a lot of back and forth. Your right brain deals with most of the complexity of driving while your left brain thinks of something else or remembers directions. Your left brain collects information and your right brain then "incubates" the idea tossing it back sometime in the future to your left brain as an "aha!"

Edwards hypothesizes convincingly that drawing is a great way to talk to your right brain and more directly bring your right brain into a "conversation" of conscious problem solving. I thought about drawing in the context of meditation which is also a lot about getting the left brain to "go away" or "shut up". Since reading the book on the plane, I have been scribbling sketches in my notebook. I continue to be surprised at this newly discovered ability that has been hidden for 40 years. Who said you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

I'm not sure yet whether I'm going to share any of my "artwork" with the public, but I am surely going to begin drawing as a way of thinking about things and spending time. I have a feeling that it will also help me communicate graphically and may even improve my sense of direction. ;-)

I'm REALLY excited about discovering a key to a door I shut way back in elementary school and I think this new hobby will work well in my "new lifestyle". If you've every thought, "I'm not good at drawing," I highly recommend and urge you read this book and reconsider. Also, if you recommend any other books or resources along these lines, I'd appreciate any pointers.

I've tracked down a weird bug when importing images on my Mac. When my OS X time zone is set to UTC, all of my images are dated 1/1/1970. When I set it to a time zone like JST, the date becomes correct. The dates are affected on my RAW files after they are imported. In other words, when I change to UTC, all of the dates become 1/1/1970. When I change the time zone, images imported in the past become correct.

However, if I process an image using Capture One and convert RAW to jpg, the bad date is fixed and doesn't revert when I change the time zone.

This occurs if I copy the files from the memory directly or if I use Image Capture to import the images.

Has anyone else had this problem? I guess most people don't have their computers set to UTC...

Anyone know of a good bike shop in the South of Market area? I'm in SF a few times a month these days and I think it would make sense for me to bike around instead of cab for those out-of-walking-distance locations.

Also, I just called the W Hotel and they said I couldn't store my bike there even though I practically live there. Stupid hotel. Anyone know of a hotel that's around the scale of the W Hotel that might be more friendly?

While I'm at it, I'd also like to mention that there are many things about the W Hotel that I like, but it is probably the only hotel that I've ever stayed at so much that doesn't really "get to know me". Just about every other hotel that I regularly use in any particular city gets to know me after a few stays. I've probably stayed at the W several dozen times recently and I still don't know anyone and no one knows me. I wonder if there is a high turnover of employees or whether they just don't care.

I'm also getting a bit tired of stepping over all of the lanyarded drunks in the lobby on my way to my room...

I've been staying at the W mostly because of the Starwoods points and Platinum status that I have, but if I'm going to be staying at any hotel so much, I can probably get whatever status in whatever system they have.

The new St. Regis is also a Starwoods hotel, but it's rather pricey and unless someone with deep pockets is paying for it, I'd rather not stay there all the time. I guess I'll use my 300,000 Starwoods points to stay at the St. Regis when I'm on a low-budget trip. 300K points should get me 15 nights at the St. Regis.

So... any recommendations on a Bike shop or a good hotel would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

I was messing around on the Nike store trying out the "made to order" Nike+ shoe section. There is an option to label your shoe with your "iD". When I tried "Joi" it said iD declined. It accepted "Jo", "Joichi", "JoiIto" but not "Joi".

According to their policy:

A Personal iD may be declined for any one of the following reasons

* It might violate another party's trademark or other intellectual property rights. These may include words, phrases, celebrity's names, and even certain color combinations when used in connection with particular words or geographic designations.
* It contains profanity, inappropriate slang, might be considered insulting or discriminatory, might be construed to incite violence, or may simply contain material that we do not wish to place on our products.

So what does "Joi" mean that I don't know about? :-\